Maybe it's an age and location thing, but that is not true for any of the children I know - and certainly not for my son. We recently took part in some research for Ribena, in which we each wore a pedometer to measure how many steps we take a day. I was working in London that week, covering for a magazine production editor, so my own results were pretty poor – walk to car, walk from car to train, walk five minutes to office, sit down most of the day and then the reverse. My seven-year-old meanwhile, measured an incredible number of steps – even though he was back at school – he never walks if he can run, and rarely sits down for more than a few minutes at a time.
But maybe it is an age thing because a study by the makers of No Added Sugar Ribena Plus of more than 1,500 families across the UK, revealed that a four-year-old spends more than seven hours more playing each week than the average twelve-year-old. Over a third of parents of four-year-olds described them as ‘very active’ and one in five said they were hard to keep up with – possibly because almost half (47 per cent) would never walk if they could run.
In fact, one in five (19 per cent) think their children are more active than they were at that age.
My son has always been on hyperdrive – he walked at eight months and hasn’t stopped since! So, I wondered, is he more active than me at the same age? Well certainly he takes part in more organised activities than I did – he has swimming lessons, plays 3.5 hours of tennis, plays footie twice a week and does a two-hour Taekwondo session. That’s on top of playing footie with his mates at school, PE lessons, playing in the park, going swimming, going to the skate park, playing footie in the garden (are you sensing a theme here?).
I was a very active child but I’m sure I didn’t run around half as much as him – yes, we played out in the garden or out in the street, or in the woods behind our house, and we played games at school (although a lot of the girls’ games involved more sedentary games, and doing handstands and showing our knickers!) We explored the woods, making dens and climbing trees.
We played Tag, and It, and British Bulldog when that was still allowed. One of my favourite games was what we called ‘elastics’ although I later learned that it was called French skipping. I certainly walked more than my son. But then we didn’t have a car, so I didn’t have much choice! We now live in a village, where, unless you are going to the park or out into the fields, you need to drive to get anywhere.
However, I didn’t play tennis, hockey or netball until secondary school, and PE consisted of skipping around the hall, and balancing on ‘beams’ as far as I can remember – no organised games such as netball, dodgeball, hockey, and so on – all things he has already tried. Nor were there opportunities for girls to play football, much to my disgust, coming from a football-mad household with two older brothers.
But as I said, my son is only seven – already there are not enough days in the week for him to indulge all his sporting loves, and as he gets older and schoolwork becomes more demanding, I wonder how he is going to fit it all in. Mind you, he had a great idea the other day – how about if he gave up school, then he’d have more time for his sports clubs! Maybe I’ll run it past his head teacher and see what she thinks!