In early April some of my colleagues and I began a training study with CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario). The ABC (Activity Begins in Childhood) program is “designed to facilitate the engagement of 3 to 5 year old children in physical activity and movement experiences that form an overall physical, cognitive, social and emotional development” (Kristi B. Adamo, PhD).
Through the study, we received training and support to help us engage the children in a wide variety of physical activities both indoors and outdoors. The goal was to provide one hour of physical activity every day. It seemed like a lot until we realized that the hour could be broken into smaller parts; five minutes here and fifteen minutes there adds up quickly. Over the six month period of the study, we chose activities to enhance and develop the children’s skills; loco motor, manipulative movement, music and creative play.
We observed many benefits from the implementation of this program. Gross motor skills like kicking, throwing, catching, running, jumping and galloping grew stronger. In the beginning many of the younger children were reluctant to try. Midway through we noticed these children were not only attempting the skills but they were proud of their accomplishments. “I did it” became the phrase heard most often around the centre. We were able to do some activities that partnered children. The older children began to foster the younger ones. Their ability to take a turn developed and waiting in line became a time to cheer others on instead of fighting to be first. Near the end of the study the children were making their own obstacle courses and organizing games in smaller groups. They would ask for favorite activities to be repeated over and over. Our five minutes became ten and it progressed from there.
The benefit to the children was incredible, but it was even greater for me. I was able to rethink the way I approach physical activity. I am not the most coordinated person. I do not run fast, I cannot jump high and I have never been a team sport person. With the modelling and coaching provided by the personal trainer, I feel confident with my ability to include a greater physical activity level within our program. From action songs to team sports I now have a wider repertoire of activities and the children are more willing to try something new. I feel confident in my ability to adapt the activities to meet a wide range of ages and abilities.
Honestly, this program took a great deal of commitment. The training and paperwork for the educators and parents was demanding and time consuming but the support from the ABC study organizers was incredible. The personal trainer supported the group every couple of weeks. The resource materials from HOP (Healthy Opportunities for Preschoolers) and MusiGo are creative and useful. If the opportunity arises for your team to participate in the CHEO ABC program, I strongly suggest that you give it a try! It changed my world.
Written by Heather Kerr-Gauthier, RECE
Aladin Child Care Services (Bank Street)
Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines