Wednesday 20 March 2013


On your marks, get set...
Here in the uk there seems to have been a fair amount of agonising over whether competitive sport is a good or bad thing for young children. For several years it was the trend for primary schools to ditch the traditional sports day, where children competed against each other, for a non-competitive, "everyone tries everything and sees if they can improve their own personal skills" day.
With the influence of the fantastic 2012 Olympics, policy seems to be reverting the other way, with competitive team sports at least being made compulsory in schools.
Zac loving his first school sports day.
I'm not sure where I stand! The school I used to teach at had a sports day that consisted entirely of races. It went like clockwork, each year group split into boys and girls and each doing running, sack, egg and spoon and skipping races until 60 odd races later there was a whole school relay to finish it off. The trouble was that for every child that loved sports day there was another that hated it. Coming last in your races in front of friends and family for 7 years on the trot is probably not that great for self-esteem and being a not very sporty or competitive person myself I entirely sympathised. However, life is competitive. There will come a time when they will do tests and exams in various subjects and will no doubt be aware of who gets the best/worst grades, they will compete for jobs and promotions and some will win and some won't, perhaps the sports field is just the same- if a bit more public.

Round the bamboo and back.
All this preamble is a bit irrelevant, because whatever I feel about competition, the boys definitely love a bit of it. They instigated races and competitions themselves when they were still really small and still look for new challenges to check out who's the fastest, bravest, best at balancing etc. Of course, having sporty challenges in the great outdoors is free entertainment and has got to be good for them physically if not emotionally, so here are a few things we did which might be fun to try.
We have a little "mound" in our garden which I persuaded Martin to make when the boys were very small. It looks a bit nuts but otherwise the garden is pretty much flat which is quite limiting- nothing to roll, bike, sledge down and not much to hide behind.
False start ducks!
This mound has been the launch point for lots of racing- both on foot and on wheels. One of the boys decides a course eg "down the mound, down the garden, round the bamboo and back- first one to jump off the back of the mound is the winner," and off they go. They are becoming more evenly matched so it is more of a true race now but when Danny was very little Zac used to win pretty much every time. Luckily, Zac is the more competitive and Danny's really in it for the fun so he didn't seem to mind much. We did have conversations about fairness and the fact that Danny had littler legs, and Zac was sometimes prepared to let him have a headstart or to let him win WITHOUT actually telling him that! There was added excitement when the two runner ducks we hatched last winter were grown up enough to race too, although they weren't very good at waiting for the Go!

Something to jump off.
Something to crawl through
Something to climb over.
Next came obstacle races. Down the garden, crawl under the bench, balance along the planks, kick a ball into the goal and back to the mound. The variations on this theme are endless. Admittedly, you have to have a bit of space, so if you don't have much garden it might need a trip to the park, but then anything can be turned into an obstacle. Jump on and off the step 5 times, run round the tree 3 times one way 3 times the other, crawl from this bush to the next etc etc. Once you've set a few challenges, they're more than capable of thinking up their own.
And if there's only one of them, or they don't compete without world war III ensuing, then a race against a stop-watch is equally fun. How long does it take you to........? Can you do it even faster next time? They will push themselves to beat their own record, and keep going with the same challenge for that much longer which is great exercise.
This was a popular activity with Danny when Zac had started at school full time and Dan was still a part-time preschooler. I was once counting seconds for Danny to see how fast he could zoom on his like-a-bike down the path at the rec and back. After about 5 trips there and back I forgot to count.
Danny, "Mummy! I can't hear you counting!"
Me, "Sorry Danz, I was just thinking how grown-up you look on your bike and I forgot to count."
Danny, "Grrrr mummy. Now I have to do it again, and this time NO THINKING ABOUT ANYTHING!"

Setting out the start line for a family race round the holiday house!
 So there it is. How about a family sports day to get everyone outside and active. I'm sure the kids can think of ways of handicapping the grown ups so everything's fair!

I just added this post to the active family linky:

 photo ActiveFamily150x150_zps28e829a4.jpg


  1. What a great idea, definitely something for us to try this summer! I think it's still important for children to be competitive, and I was never much good at sport at school. It also teaches you that you can't necessarily be good at everything, and you should try and find out where your talents lie. I do try to do the 'it's not about the winning, it's the taking part' thing with my children though!

  2. Thank you for your comments Jennifer. Let's hope we get some summer this year!

  3. This is amazing! i so love the fact you have managed to get such active photos and that you have so many ideas for being active!

    Thanks for linking up with #activefamily xx

  4. Thank you Jaime. I confess, my kids are a lot more active than me. Think I should take a leaf from your blog and get on my bike!! x

  5. So much fun! Sounds familiar too. My boys certainly love a good race. Obstacle courses, however, I am now slightly less keen on: I still haven't recovered from them putting the entire contents of the house (or so it seemed) onto the patio to create the course last week. Yes, I know... My fault for not paying more attention! They had a lot of fun though! Great to find you through #activefamily

    1. Haha! I would have loved to have seen your boys version of an obstacle course! Zac keeps wondering if he can take all our sofa cushions out to make a Total Wipeout style course- I'm afraid the answer is NO!

  6. I love your family sports day, the obstacle race is full of creative ideas and your two look like they are loving the fun of it. For school I think I come down on the side of the traditional sports day, even though I was never mad on it as a child and some of mine don't like it, but others excel and that's just the reality of life. Thank you for sharing your fun on Country Kids.

    1. The boys school does a half and half- it starts with everyone rotating round lots of fun sporty challenges earning points for their team and ends with about half an hour of competitive races. I think it's just right. Thanks for your comments.