Bumble bees play, crocodiles play, even chickens play – and your kids should too. It might seem like just goofing around and having fun, but play actually serves a very important evolutionary purpose which is why it’s instinctive to the young of most species, including humans.
When your kid plays they’re picking up new skills and improving their physical, mental, and emotional health along the way. Make that play Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) and you’re also giving them the gift of team work, leadership and problem-solving skills, coordination, agility, and more. It’s fun, it’s physical, and it’s one of the best forms of structured play that both kids and adults can enjoy together.
Why play matters
It decreases stress
Kids who spend more time playing experience less anxiety and depression than those who don’t, according to a study from Exeter University which looked at childhood mental health during the pandemic. The study focused on “adventurous” play in particular and discovered that kids aged 5-11 who took part in activities that were “thrilling and exciting” saw the most benefit – with the exciting play giving them a safe way to confront and control their negative emotions.
We see that every day in our gym where we train kids aged 4 and up. Brazilian jiu jitsu is definitely one of the more adventurous martial arts and our younger students love the opportunity to wrestle out their fears on the mat. They leave happier, calmer, and more confident after just one session.
It promotes critical thinking
When your child plays, they are picking up lots of new information about the world and using that to build their critical thinking.
Jiu jitsu is especially appropriate for this type of learning as it involves situational awareness and problem-solving. Kids have to quickly evaluate their surroundings, their opponent, and then figure out which technique is most appropriate for the situation. They may not be sitting at a desk in a classroom, but their brain is definitely working hard.
It helps social development
If you’ve ever watched your kid play with others, you’ll see there’s a complicated game going on under the actual game. Playing together is how young children learn to interact with each other – getting cues on respecting each other’s boundaries, cooperating, and getting and giving feedback.
We try to foster this in our classes, pairing our kids up for partner drills that teach them the value of teamwork. We also give them plenty of opportunities to mentor and teach others who are less experienced, building key leadership skills and empathy.
It helps them grow up to be healthy adults
Studies show that kids who engage in physical activity are more likely to carry that habit into adulthood. And if they start on that path early, it’ll give them a way to stay strong as they age, as well as providing an outlet for adult stresses and encouraging other healthy habits such as positive body image, a nutritious diet, and discipline.
Our classes don’t just cater to super-fit kids or those who love sports. They’re for everyone. Our kids learn that fitness isn’t about being a certain height or weight, it’s about attitude, perseverance, and having fun with movements that challenge every muscle.
Adults need to play too!
Getting in touch with your inner child is great for your wellbeing. But getting in touch with your actual child is even better. Kids and parents who play together foster a close-knit bond that’ll last their lifetime. That’s why we introduced our Parents & Child classes, suitable for kids aged 4-7.
In these sessions, kids pair up with their parents to play games, meditate, and learn BJJ together. Parents get just as much out of these sessions as the kids. Putting it in the calendar means they have at least an hour a week dedicated to spending one-on-one time with their child free from the usual distractions of work, family and other commitments.
Work hard, play hard
Play has been a part of human life for centuries – archaeologists have found depictions of games that date back 4,000 years – but in our screen-addicted age, it’s becoming increasingly undervalued.
Not in our gym. We love play so much we include it in every class! And not just the kind of formal play that comes with learning BJJ techniques and doing drills with a partner, we also set aside time in each session for games that build friendships and up the energy in the room.
Expect to get goofy in our kids classes, where we all perform an ‘animal walk’. Each kid picks their favorite animal, and we act it out. It’s silly, yes, but that’s the point! The focus is on getting kids moving freely, with zero inhibitions and a lot of laughter.
Brazilian jiu jitsu is a powerful martial art but even the toughest warriors make time to play. If you’re interested in working and playing hard with the Innisfil Brazilian Jiu Jitsu team, get in touch. We offer kids and adult classes, as well as private training. Reach out now to book your free introductory class.