By Mamta Lulla
Do you remember a time when your kid had a fun afternoon with a neighbour’s kid simply by climbing up and down a tree or rolling down a hill? Neither do we. It seems children are too busy on their cellphones or playing Xbox games these days.
Perhaps it’s time to provide your children the same experiences you enjoyed when you were younger, in the pre-technologically advanced era where screens were not dominating every second of our lives.
These are the thoughts that went through Natasha Rychlik’s head, who is a mother in the Tri-Region and whose children inspired her to learn and teach physical literacy to other children. This includes walking properly, running correctly and playing with your friends at the park without any equipment. She aspires to live in a world where hide-and- seek qualifies as A-level fun for children.
The fitness coach decided to start the Fitkids program about two years ago with an aim to teach children to be physically fit through play mode and get creative with games. It’s a world where getting your hands dirty with mud pies didn’t gross people out but shot up the fun radar.
She runs two physical literacy classes for five to eight year olds and nine to 12 year olds.
Fitkids follows the Canadian Sport for Life model for long term athletic development. The younger children learn fundamental movement skills through a variety of games and activities.
“The class is structured but allows for free play and creativity where the children sometimes create their own version of games they enjoy,” said Rychlik.
She works on agility skills and have discussions around how your muscles work and what do they do for us.
The Learn to Train program for 9-12 year olds introduces children to the different elements of fitness and teaches proper movement patterns. The sessions combine circuits or relay sessions with strength and conditioning exercises and then children play a sport or a game.
At the end of the programs, Rychlik provides a physical literacy assessment to equip participants and their parents with a measurable guideline on their level of physical literacy.
For the older students, she not only focuses on physical activity but all different elements of fitness making them more aware of what it means to be fit and live a healthy lifestyle.
Rychlik also lets them take on leadership roles offering a chance to create their own obstacle course using playground equipment in one of the parks, where her current spring camp is taking place. The role empowers them to make decisions and lead others along the way.
Children in both her classes learn to move their bodies properly in hopes that it would translate into sports and activities they would pursue throughout their life.
“The whole intent for me is for them to try and initiate activities on their own so gathering their friends around the neighbourhood and saying ‘Oh this is a game in learned in class, let’s all play it…’ Because I find kids don’t know how to just play outside anymore,” she said.
One may also say she teaches students playground etiquette encouraging them to be kind and compassionate to each other during the warm down period. After every class, students form a ‘compliment circle’ and encourage fellow classmates with positive reinforcement.
“I encourage eye contact when they are speaking to one another and promote positive verbal communication among their peers,” she said.
Fitkids spring camp has 30 students registered currently with the camp wrapping up at the end of June. If you’ve missed out on the ongoing camp, fear not, because coach Natasha — as she’s popularly known among her students, will be back for a fall camp with a different venue.