Follow these six easy tips to ensure your children enjoy a fun and safe time this spring!
Ah spring. Finally kids can play outside and give you some peace and quiet! With the additional playing time and sporting events, how do you ensure your kids are safe and prepared?
Naturally, kids are designed for high-intensity activities. They perform quick boosts of exercise followed by short periods of rest. It is for this reason that hydration and nutrition play a vital role in children’s health, not only the spring months, but year round. Ensuring that children take breaks to sip water or juice and are eating a variety of healthy foods is integral to maintaining good health and supporting their activity levels.
Now, what do we do to avoid injury?
1. Be sure their equipment fits. Trying to squeeze into last year’s cleats or putting on an extra pair of socks to fill out on older sibling’s old shoes is not the answer. These changes might be a money saver, but faulty equipment is linked to injuries. Ensuring the proper fit of clothes, shoes, sticks, racquets, and other equipment for a child’s sport is one of the quickest fixes to avoid injury.
2. Progress appropriately. We all want the best for our kids, so we shouldn’t push them into athletic situations they aren’t ready for. Don’t throw them into the game with older kids because “he is tall for his age.” Children’s motor skills, agility, strength, and power develop differently. The differences in kids age 13 compared to age 16 are immense. Putting a child into the mix with more advanced athletes before he or she is ready can lead to bangs, bruises, and even breaks.
3. Continue activity year-round. Good cardiovascular and strength conditioning throughout the year best prepares kids for increased activity in the spring. Younger children don’t need a specific training regimen—simply letting them move, climb, crawl, and play is enough. Think of it as “functional training”—something parents may benefit from doing with them!
4. Stretch and warm up properly. As children enter a sport, be sure they are getting a good sport-specific warm up and stretching routine with their coach prior to sports competition. This should include jogging, side-to-side movement, torso and arm range of motion, and other movements replicating the direction and type of movement they will be doing during their sport. Also, this habit will help them for years to come.
5. Rest when tired. This one may be hard to control, but kids need time to rest, recover and regain focus and energy. Taking time to grab water and a snack, and take a breather will help prevent injuries due to fatigue, like sprains, strains, and falls.
6. Have fun as a family. Enjoy activities as a family! Letting kids explore different activities and sports breeds a healthy relationship with exercise and fitness. Forcing your child into a sport he or she doesn’t enjoy, or feels pressure to perform, may even lead to behaviors such as moving carelessly and decreasing focus, which may lead to injury. Find out what your child likes best and get the entire family involved.
Heather Milton, MS, RCEP, CSCS, is a clinical exercise physiologist at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center, where she conducts physiological testing and trains a diverse clientele that ranges from competitive athletes to those wishing to improve their overall health and fitness. Prior to joining the staff at NYU Langone, Heather worked at the Tufts USDA Human Nutrition Center as a strength and conditioning researcher and then at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital as a senior exercise physiologist in the cardiovascular lab. Heather is a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Heather also contributes her knowledge in fitness and health to a holistic wellness technology company as the physical activity and weight management consultant.