I taught a fitness class to several groups of Daisy Girl Scouts this past Saturday. These girls are usually between 5 and 6 years old. It was a twenty minute class that included a warm up, an aerobic portion, a strength portion, and a stretch portion. I use a lot of music and imagination to get them to participate and its usually a lot of fun. This is the second time I taught this type of class for the Girl Scouts and I've noticed a definite pattern.
My first class came bounding in full of energy. They were ready to move their bodies. I get silly when I teach this age and I encourage the kids to get silly with me. This class was great, no matter what silly move I asked them to do they were willing. We marched, hopped, kicked, and swam. The adults took pictures throughout.
During the strength portion I incorporate several Pilates based moves, like the preparation position for rolling like a ball (for you non-Pilates people, that essentially means balancing on your butt) and the mini roll down (starting from a seated position and lowering the upper body down just until you feel your feet will pop off the floor and then engaging the abs to pull the body back to a seated position). Kids make this look easy!
I try to move around the class to help kids get positioned and make sure they are safe. One of the mom's jumped in to help. Many of the kids told me that they did some of these moves in gymnastics, dance or karate. When the class was over, every adult in the room thanked me for doing the program. Several asked where I taught.
The second class, dragged in and were difficult to engage. Two minutes into the program they were asking when it would be over, many of the kids were already winded. The adults were less involved, no pictures were taken. The adults in this group were significantly heavier than those of the first group and so were the kids. No one volunteered to help and no one said thank you when it was over. In fact they all basically fled.
The third group came bounding in, much like the first. They were active and involved. They even had ideas about different ways to move that I hadn't included. They too had experienced some of the moves in dance, gymnastics, and karate. The parents were involved and some even moved a bit with us. The adults and children were not as heavy as the second group. At the end the adults and kids from this group all said thank you.
It seems quite clear that our actions are mirrored in our children. In both the first and last groups the parents and/or troop leaders were active people. (I know this from talking to them afterwards.) The kids had no difficulty being active, it was just what they did. The second group had parents who were far more sedentary and physical activity was almost foreign to these kids. Face it, at 34 I should be struggling to keep up with 5 and 6 year olds, not the other way around.
I know I mention that the first and last group said thank you but its not really about manners. Have you ever just felt so out of place that you just wanted to get out of the situation? Clearly that is how these adults felt. They looked at this spandex wearing loon and figured, "she's nuts!" Maybe it got them thinking. I have to hope that someone in that group began to recognize that something needs to change. Perhaps one of them peeked in at one of the active groups and saw the fun they were having. Maybe one of them went home and took a walk with the whole family.