Throughout my career as a Licensed Clinical Child and Adolescent Behavioral Psychologist (yes, I know that’s an obnoxiously long title), I have explained to parents the benefits of their children being physically active more times than I can keep track of. There have been, over the past 15 years, three that stand out far above the rest, topping my list of recommended physical activities: Martial arts, gymnastics, and competitive swimming.
Three reasons these sports are great for kids
These activities have a lot in common: first and foremost they’re individual sports, where the child is able to learn the essential skill of perseverance. One has to work on learning a new skill, work at it for an extended period of time, then after several weeks or months gets to see if their hard work paid off at a belt testing, swim meet or gymnastics competition. Teaching this level of delayed gratification through perseverance is paramount to healthy and happy kids.
Secondly, these three sports are all extremely physically demanding. Quite honestly, these activities wear kids out by allowing them to release their excess of energy. Subsequently we see that children are better able to settle down, to sleep well, or sit through long school days with better behavior control following participation in these three activities.
Lastly, these three activities provide essential learning in body control, performing deliberate body movements that must be precise in order to achieve their goal.
And now, rock climbing
Well I’m happy to say that since the opening of First Ascent Peoria, I’m adding a fourth to my list of recommended activities: Rock Climbing! Climbing meets the three aforementioned criteria: it’s an individual sport where one must persevere to accomplish a goal (master a route or climbing problem that they have been working on for several trips to the facility). Rock climbing is also extremely strenuous and will use up a child’s excess energy. Thirdly, it requires very precise and deliberate body movements, teaching better body control.
However, there’s one extra benefit that rock climbing has over these other three sports: you can truly do this as a family!
I was so pleased to see that my wife and I were not the only ones present with our children this past weekend at First Ascent. We saw parents working with and encouraging their children to help them persevere. I saw children helping their parents by telling them the next move they should make with a hand or foothold. I saw families growing stronger by doing something together.
So, moms and dads: get out there and do something real with your children this weekend. Head to First Ascent, and watch as your child and family grow for the better!
Dr. Kyle W. Boerke is a Licensed Clinical Child and Adolescent Behavioral Psychologist and a member at First Ascent Peoria.