Being physically fit is important for people of all ages, and it’s especially beneficial to develop healthy habits early in childhood. But do kids need adult guidance to become healthier? According to a study published in Physiology & Behavior, both teacher-designed and child-designed games can have beneficial effects on the health and creativity of participants.
It’s crucial to instill healthy behaviors in children because these behaviors often continue into adulthood. Keeping kids active has become a major concern, particularly with the rise of sedentary behaviors and the COVID-19 pandemic keeping children indoors. Sedentary behaviors in childhood are linked to negative health outcomes later in life, while an active lifestyle during childhood can reduce the risk of metabolic disorders.
However, children are often reluctant to engage in traditional exercise and prefer to get their physical activity through games. Child-designed games, which are spontaneous and allow children to use their imagination, are popular among kids. On the other hand, teacher-designed games are structured and planned, led by an instructor. This study aims to compare the health benefits of child-designed and teacher-designed games.
The study, conducted by Maryam Mohammadi-Nia and her colleagues, involved 30 children aged 8-10 years who were participating in a sports class. The participants were randomly assigned to either the teacher-designed or child-designed intervention and underwent eight weeks of hour-long workouts twice per week. The teacher-designed game was chosen from a lesson plan generator suitable for children of this age group, while the child-designed game allowed the children to freely use equipment, with the instructor occasionally demonstrating a toy.
The participants’ height and weight were measured to calculate their BMI, and fitness tests were conducted before and after the eight-week intervention. These tests included measurements of handgrip strength, long jump, shuttle run, plank, sit and reach, flamingo balance, ladder agility, coordination, and creative thinking.
The results showed that both child-designed and teacher-designed interventions led to significant improvements in health and creativity among the participating children. The child-designed intervention was associated with increased improvement in aerobic capacity and creativity, while the teacher-designed intervention was associated with increased improvement in agility and coordination.
Both groups showed significant improvements in various tasks, such as flexibility, long jump, handgrip strength, and balance, with no significant differences between the groups. There were no significant changes in height, weight, or BMI for either group before and after the intervention.
The researchers concluded that both child-designed and teacher-designed games are effective in improving the physical fitness and creativity of children aged 8-10 years. Since games are more enjoyable for children than traditional training, it is recommended that physical activities be designed in a game format.
The findings suggest that both approaches have their strengths in different areas, so a combination of both approaches is recommended to maximize the mental and physical benefits for children.
While this study provides valuable insights into improving physical fitness for children, it’s important to note its limitations. The sample size was small, so future research with a larger sample is needed to obtain more nuanced results and encourage group games. Additionally, the intensity of exercise was not measured, so future research could incorporate physiological markers to assess exercise intensity.
The study, “The effect of 8 weeks of child designed vs teacher designed games on physical fitness and creativity in children 8-10 years“, was authored by Maryam Mohammadi-Nia, Rasoul Yaali, Sadegh Amani-Shalamzari, and Cain C.T. Clark.