For Better Health, Be Like a Kid Again
Aug 02, 2018
The other night, I was watching my one-year-old son attempt to pick up a garden hose in the backyard. Starting in a deep squat, he kept trying to stand up with an object that was heavy relative to his size. Standing unsupported is a skill he's yet to master, and here he was trying this unknown skill to him. After about 50 tries, he finally got it and I'll never forget that smile on his face.
Watching my children grow over the last few years, I've realized kids are invigorated by the most difficult of physical challenges. Curiosity to learn about their surroundings results in physical skills like crawling and walking. The connection between physical movement and brain development is clear in children.
I'm not sure where we lost this as adults, but keeping this same curiosity would solve most of our health problems. Adopting a child's approach brings mindfulness to movement, paving the way for healthier aging. Here's what you can take from this example to improve your health.
Never Stop Being Curious
As stated above, the curiosity of a child drives motor development. If babies weren't curious about their environment, they aren't likely to start to roll, crawl, and walk. This is their means to get to what they want to explore. Little ones have a natural interest in exploring that no physical challenge will stop them from getting to. It might take days or hundreds of attempts, but they are often persistent to the point of being stubborn.
Most of us have lost this as adults. We don't explore our environment enough. And even when we do, if something looks too difficult we are likely to give up. Bring back your curiosity, and watch your movement flourish. Focus on learning about your world, and you'll be moving more without realizing it.
Keep Trying Challenging Tasks
What else can we learn from kids? Keep trying new, challenging tasks every day. Can't get off the floor without using your hands today? Keep trying tomorrow.
Once you've mastered a skill, keep adding layers to increase the challenge. For example, expose yourself to a variety of walking surfaces. Can you walk easily on level, smooth ground? Try uphill, downhill, grass, gravel, or any combination of these and watch what happens! The possibilities to challenge yourself are endless if you know how to find them.
Adopt a Love of Learning
Many of us lack understanding of “physical literacy” or how the human body moves. Kids are driven to learn every day, whether learning a new physical skill or learning how to read.
Bring this love of learning back into your life. Set a goal each day for something new you want to learn about, whether it's balance, walking, or strength. Keep moving fun, rewarding, and reinforce the positive gains (especially the small ones).
Ever notice how many times per day little kids fall without skipping a beat? Kids lack fear because fear is a learned skill. This is why they need to be supervised. They haven't associated their actions with consequences yet. At times it makes this fearlessness detrimental. But most adults could use a little more of this fearlessness. Adults have learned to associate their actions with consequences, but too much of this is also a detriment.
We aren't suggesting you get up and try the tasks that frighten you most. Instead, take steps to break larger or intimidating tasks into smaller parts. Start by tackling the smallest parts. Recruit a buddy or a professional, like a physical therapist, to help you build a sense of awareness of your starting point. Once you know what your current capabilities are you can make a realistic plan for improvement.
Observe and Move As They Move
Kids are content to be in a world without chairs, tables, or shoes. They love to be barefoot, sit on the floor, and play for extended periods of time in a deep squat position.
Believe it or not, adults should have these abilities as well! Limit the environmental influences that impact movement in your kid's world, and limit them in yours too.
Watch what they do, and move as they do. When they sit on the floor, get on the floor with them. Notice how they squat to pick something up instead of bending over? Start trying that too, your back will thank you. Mimic their movements as they develop.
Start today! What can you do to bring back the fun, learning, and curiosity to your movement?