Shake Your Booty!

Little bikerDriving home from the grocery store today I happened upon a sight that always warms my heart — a little kid outside playing! This guy, about seven, was riding his bike, having a ball and his mom was close by, watching. I love that! It’s so, I don’t know, encouraging or something.

But as I looked a little closer I realized that the “bike” was actually a miniature motorcycle with training wheels. I immediately felt completely deflated. Not that it wouldn’t be cool to have a miniature motorcycle — that actually sounds like a blast to me. I’ve always had fantasies about cruising around in my own golf cart or one of those Disneyland Autopia cars.

The thing is, the motor on that bike was doing all the work, not the cute little boy on it. And this guy still needed training wheels for Pete’s sake, which says to me that he hasn’t even mastered the whole balance thing yet. I’m not judging, but he really needs to be working on that and getting that physical playtime in, too.

We all keep hearing that kids are not getting enough exercise these days and it’s true. Did you know that they need at least 30 minutes of really moving around — running, jumping, climbing, skating, skipping, bike riding, shooting baskets, jumping rope — every single day? Yeah, they do. And this dude wasn’t getting any. So that explains my feeling deflated.

There’s even research to suggest that kids who play independently vs. just participating in a team sport are more likely to keep it up and make exercise a part of their lives forever. But with all the stuff we try to cram into our way-too-busy lives, it’s tough to get it in sometimes.

So I say, Mamas unite! Let’s ditch the motorcycles and give ’em what they need! Let’s get them out there every day and make it known that they are expected to PLAY!! Every single day, just like brushing their teeth. Let’s give them permission and opportunity to explore their outside world, get dirty, and have some free, unstructured time to cut loose.

Then, when we are old and grey and need help getting out of the car, they will be strong and fit and there to give us a hand.

(Plus, for the life of me I can’t figure out why in the world any parent in her right mind would want her kid to get hooked on motorcycles! If you don’t agree, talk to me again when yours turns 16)

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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