If you spend any time looking for information on the internet, you have probably encountered a lovely tool called Google. Google and other search engines, websites, social media, video games and algorithms have transformed the way we behave, not just online, but also in the way we talk and think about other aspects of life.
This becomes very apparent when searching or looking for active things to do with your kids. I know that all words have different contexts and multiple meanings, but the ones I spend most of my time looking for have slowly been decreasing in their accessibility online and require more and more additional words in order to find what I am looking for. Here are some examples:
Play – as a verb, the first definitions that come up (admittedly on Google) are related to physical activity and recreation or sport, as well as the theatrical context. The same applies when looking at play as a noun. However, if you just type ‘Play’ in to Google rather than ‘definition of play’, music websites, android devices and building web applications dominate the first page. The second page brings in lotto and video games, as well as make up. The third page features the first real pages on play, relating to professional sport.
Games – as a noun, the first definition refers to a form of play or sport. As a verb, we see the first use of game in relation to playing video games. Just searching ‘Games’ brings up online games, apps, video games, brain training and more. Not until page 12 of the search results does anything related to physical activity show up, and once again, it refers to professional sport with the Canada Games.
Other words such as activity (delete my activity (?!)), active (active clothes), sport (retail stores) are dominated by commercial or online applications.
How can we expect parents, teachers and anyone else looking for information around being active and playing games with kids to find easily accessible information if someone like me who spends most of my time thinking about this stuff struggles?!
In order to find information on physically active games, I searched ‘physically active games and activities for children’ in to Google. Even then, one of the results returned was online gaming. This led me to some accredited information and some blogs that seemed to be from well-intentioned people. When I added ‘Canada’ under ‘Tools’ and ‘Country’, I am happy to say that many accredited organisations and resources came up that link to wonderful information.
Another great way to be informed about play, active games and fun ways to engage children in being active is to sign up for programs and services offered by your local recreation and sport centres. Many of these centres have parent and tot classes. If your kids are older, they are happy for you to stay and watch how their leaders engage the children. If you don’t have time to stay or have other things to do while the kids are occupied, email the leaders or managers of the program and ask for copies of what the children did during their time in order to ask the kids about it and build your own knowledge.
Why does all of this matter? Kids learn fundamental movement skills through games and play that build confidence and competence to live an active life. In Canada, fewer than 10% of kids get the necessary activity each day to be healthy and develop these skills. It is my hope that as more people are made aware of play and games, ideally that take place outside, with friends and get people moving around, then we can reclaim the words that have been overtaken by the online world. This is a big ask, and I need all of you to help me.
~Chris Wright, Physical Literacy Coordinator at PISE and proud father of a beautiful, little girl. Chris manages PISE’s kids programs and our offsite kids programs at schools, centres, etc.