By Melissa Ford
I walk my dog, Jane Russell, at least three times a day so I spend time in our parks, especially Lindberg. Yesterday evening, I witnessed something I haven’t seen in a very long time. A little boy and girl were playing with their dad, and it wasn’t an organized sport.
This energetic four year-old boy (I heard his dad call him “JJ”), was racing against his six year-old sister. The races commenced at the tree, the children sprinted towards their father and then tagged up on his outstretched hands. The longer-legged, big sister tended to leave JJ in the dust, but dad kept cheering on his son, “JJ, run like the wind! Come on, JJ!”
JJ won a couple of the races; I was impressed as he huffed and puffed and ran as hard as he could. The kids giggled and screamed every time a new race would start. Their laughter was contagious and I found myself smiling, secretly urging JJ on. As I continued to observe, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards this man for playing, laughing, hugging, cheering, and interacting with his kids. Fun was at the top of their agenda, but so much more was going on. This dad probably didn’t even realize it, but in fact, he was helping JJ and his sister grow their brains!
Yep, that’s right! Regular physical exercise is crucial for stimulating brain growth and creating connections for learning. Imagine enhancing your ability to learn through running races! Besides brain development, dad was helping his kids develop social and emotional competency, too!
There were a few races when JJ was victorious, and his sister didn’t take losing well. After one particular race, big sister tackled JJ like an NFL linebacker. I held my breathe, wondering if the little guy would be put on injured reserve, but dad stepped in, lifted his daughter off of little JJ and spoke directly to her. Nodding her head, she turned and helped JJ up.
What an evening! Problem solving, developing relationships, learning to regulate emotions and “running like the wind” - it all was happening before my eyes.
Come join JJ and his family at the park some evening! I promise plenty of fun, considerable brain growth and heaps of social and emotional development.