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MASTER CLASS: Kids run faster when they think about ninjas

by Matt Parrott | May 18, 2020 at 1:55 a.m.
Meredith Pinkston, 16, demonstrates the first activity of the Ninja Warrior course April 29. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

Kids love challenges, especially physical challenges. I find that I am able to motivate my daughter to ride her bike, go for walks and stay active by thinking up simple ways for her to compete.

I really enjoy being active with my 7-year-old. It gets us out of the house and off our devices, which is more difficult than it sounds. Although her interests have evolved over the years, she has always loved a challenge. Whether it is a race, a game of tag or something more involved, she stays engaged if there is an opportunity to "win."

So, I try to create little activities that provide that type of motivation. As she has grown older, she is able to complete more complex challenges that involve memory as well. I like workouts that also allow children to use their minds. Trying to remember certain rules, timing or shifting motions keeps them on their toes, from a mental standpoint.

In our case, she does her best when the challenge is relatively short (less than 3 minutes), includes several types of activity and requires her to use her mind. Timed scavenger hunts, soccer penalty kicks and custom obstacle courses are a few of the challenges she has liked the most.

Obstacle courses could present the best opportunity for parents and grandparents to customize their own fun activity, regardless of the space or equipment available. My best advice is not to overthink it. The Ninja Warrior television show uses an amazing obstacle course that is impossible to replicate in the average backyard. However, creating your own Ninja Warrior course can be done with a couple of markers, a sports ball and some creativity.

This week's exercise uses a course I titled Ninja Warrior although it pales in comparison to the complexity of the TV show obstacles. If the child is familiar with that show (as mine is), the very idea of having his or her own course will be exciting.

Simple though it is, in this case, we challenge the child's memory, footwork and quickness with a short but intense backyard playtime.

1. This is a timed obstacle course, so the child can try to do it faster and faster.

2. Select a soccer ball, medicine ball or basketball.

3. Arrange four stations like the bases in a baseball diamond.

4. The child starts at "home plate" and moves counterclockwise (as in baseball) to first, second, third and then home.

5. The first lap is kicking the ball around the bases — as a soccer player might.

6. The second lap is running around the bases with the ball held overhead.

7. The third lap is kicking the ball from home plate to second and then running with ball overhead from second to home.

8. The fourth lap is a full sprint while holding the ball against the chest.

9. Time all four laps and challenge the child to better his or her time each day.

It's funny, the memory part of this challenge is tricky to master during the first few attempts, but the child will start to memorize the order of activity before long. Once that happens, watch out. Times will improve and the fun will really begin. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Style on 05/18/2020

Print Headline: Obstacle courses part of fun activities for children


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