Posted Joy Hartman on 5/9/2016 |Announcements
You might think the answer is running since you are reading the Girls on the Run blog. It’s not. Could it be swimming, soccer, tennis, volleyball? Nope. Well, not really nope. More like all of the above. Don’t you hate trick questions? The real answer is play. The best exercise for tween girls is to simply play. They need to run, jump, climb, build, create, draw, plan, throw, toss, wiggle and giggle their way through any activity their hearts can imagine!
Sadly, as girls get older they play less and less often. Girls can get very self-conscience in tween years. Add Instagram and Snapchat and whatever else is going on in that device in their hands as an added source of judgment and comparison and our once-confident, spunky little girls seem to fall into a pit of insecurity. Little girls who once wore a Cinderella dress and lady bug boots to play in the backyard become afraid to be seen in the backyard, even with the perfect outfit! Developmentally they are craving sameness and seem to lose their ability to embrace difference. Every decision seems to be made to avoid being seen as different or alone or weird. And I assure you, playing in the backyard in lady bug boots would be seen by your tween as super weird!
We must help our girls find their ability to make decisions for themselves. To be intentional in how they spend their time. To find their joy and confidence again!
Girls don’t necessarily need to be specialized in a sport by the age of twelve. Not every girl finds her passion or her talent at a young age and they don’t need to. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that "play (or some available free time in the case of older children and adolescents) is essential to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth." Play is what helps our girls “learn how to work collaboratively, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and learn self-advocacy skills”.
Play is one of the best ways to show girls that they are capable and strong and able to do amazing things. Play is what will help our girls nurture their physical, emotional and spiritual health and learn to negotiate, be a leader and stand up for themselves and others!
As parents, coaches, teachers and friends of girls, we have the power and responsibility to be intentional in raising girls today. Now get out there and show girls how to play again!
How? Host a neighborhood baseball game or plan a scavenger hunt with your daughter and her friends. Challenge her to create a game that uses the old, lonely swing set and a deflated yoga ball or have your older tweens invite some of the little girls you know over for a day of babysitting that really turns into all of the girls having a blast again with sidewalk chalk! Have your girls put on a show for the family or train the dog to do a new trick. Play can be physical like running and jumping, it can be creative like putting on a show or drawing in a journal, or it can be intellectual like designing robotics for fun or doing math or word games.
Play is girls doing what they love. Play is girls trying something new. Play is girls doing something just for fun. Play should feel fun, relaxed, balanced, purposeful, free, or happy.