The Quality Active School Experience: Supporting Girls Active Participation
The after school time period, from 3:00pm to 6:00pm, is an important opportunity to increase physical activity amongst children and youth. Research shows that only 5% of girls and young women are active enough to benefit their health (AHKC Report Card, 2013). The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend children and youth accumulate 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. Parents/Guardians can support girls and young women in leading healthy active lives by encouraging their participation in quality active after school programs (QAASP), in sport programs or active artistic pursuits (e.g. dance), and/or by being active together during this time period.
What Should I Know?
- Start Young Encourage and enable girls and young women to move and express themselves physically through active play and participation in sport and physical activity. Ensure she develops physical literacy (basic sport and physical activity skills and knowledge) and a foundation for life-long participation through quality physical education, physical activity and sport programs. Buy her toys and games that promote physical activity, rather than sedentary behaviour. Take pictures of her being active to post on the fridge, and celebrate her efforts. Girls begin to disassociate sport and physical activity with being feminine from a young age – reassure her that girls and women can be strong, competent, and competitive in sport and physical activity. If Canada is to enhance delivery of ‘quality’ after school programs, there needs to be a common understanding of what constitutes a ‘quality’ program. While good work has been done in sport and recreation for Healthy Child Development, the use of ‘quality’ in the after school context has not been specifically defined.
- Be An Active Role Model Make time for physical activity in your own life, whether joining a team or walking the dog around the block. Be active together playing in parks, hiking, swimming, or riding bikes. Learn a new skill together, or plan a family adventure centred around an active pursuit. Attend women’s university/college, amateur or professional sport games, or follow women athletes at the Olympics or Canada Games, to introduce her to other active role models.
- Talk About the Benefits...and Address Her Barriers Promote the variety of benefits of involvement in sport and physical activity, including fun, friendship, skill development (including life skills), decreased stress, leadership opportunities, physical and mental health, etc. Invest time to learn about the psycho-social factors influencing girls and young women, and how to reduce the barriers affecting their participation (including self-esteem and body image concerns, peer and relationship pressures, notions of femininity, time management and prioritization skills, etc.). Give her the support and coping skills she needs to make healthy choices. While weight loss can be an initial motivator for some girls and young women (and/or their families), prioritize the other outcomes of participation.
- Nurture Her Interests Talk to girls and young women about their sport and physical activity interests. Encourage her to try new activities to find an activity she loves. Learn about her preferences with respect to competitiveness, individual or team sports, indoor or outdoor activities, etc. Set aside the after school time for her to be active; support a healthy balance between school, homework, domestic responsibilities and her active leisure pursuits.
- Seek Out Quality Programs Quality programs will ensure girls have fun, learn new skills, and experience success - key components to the development of a foundation for life-long physical activity. Consider the quality of the following program components: leadership, instruction, evaluation, activities (including the amount and nature of physically active time), and healthy snack options, inclusion of all children, equipment, facilities, and social environment. Question policies and practices that may limit girls and young women’s activity level during the after school time period (e.g. gym space prioritized for the boys, emphasis on sedentary activities, attitudes that may limit the active engagement of girls and young women).
Quality Active After School Parent/Guardian Resource: www.activeafterschool.ca/parents
Actively Engaging Women and Girls: Addressing the Psycho-Social Factors www.caaws.ca
CS4L: A Sport Parent’s Guide, and Developing Physical Literacy www.canadiansportforlife.ca