With Michelle Obama and the Center for Disease Control on a mission to wipe out childhood obesity in America, it is no surprise that hula hooping has come into the limelight as one way to maintain health for our kids. Childhood obesity has, after all, more than tripled in the past 30 years here. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of youth struggling with obesity today already have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Something obviously has to be done.
Whether or not kids want to exercise, most want to play. Hula hooping is a great way for kids to spin up some exercise without really knowing it. And while that may not be a news flash exactly, it has seemed to me, as a mother, that my boys have been gaining a plethora of other benefits and life skills from picking up the hoop as well. I knew how much the hoop had personally shaped and improved my life as an adult, but I was curious to know just how good is hooping for our kids, and what are all the benefits for them? So I decided to talk with several hoop professionals who are teaching hooping to children to find out. You might be surprised to learn that hooping helps children develop far more than just good exercise habits, especially when practiced with some regularity.
[School assemblies with Hoop It Up Worldwide.]
Kelly Breaux of Hoop It Up Worldwide has been hooping with children for the past ten years. What benefits does Kelly see as she works with these kids? She told Hooping.org, “It definitely improves self esteem in the kids because there is always a skill that a child can master. Also, when we go back to the same schools every year, the kids who are hooping are in better shape and have higher self esteem than those who didn’t keep up with it.” Kelly added, “At our company we call hooping a phenomenon because we have an obesity crisis with kids in our country and it is so easy for them to get hooping and have fun. They learn technique and core cardio. This gets kids to work out because they love it! Often to get boys and girls to exercise for an hour is unheard of.”
Abby Albaum of Hoola Monster Kids based in St. Petersburg, Florida, has been spinning up things for kids too, including the Molly and the Holly Monsters DVD. What does she see as the benefits of getting kids to hoop beyond the more obvious ones surrounding physical fitness? Abby explained, “I notice kids really come out of their shell as a result of my classes. Some were quiet, very introverted, and something great happens as they find themselves in the hoop. They tend to become more participatory in class. I worked with a little girl once who barely said a word. Then, after hooping with me for about 6 months, she signed up to hoop dance in her school talent show. I went to support her, and she rocked it! Her classmates gave her a standing ovation, and she seems like a totally different kid now. She’s confident and can’t wait to show off her hooping skills. Hooping helps kids build self confidence.”
At Turners Youth Circus in Louisville, Kentucky, Rebecca Hellemans teaches and choreographs hoop dancing routines for the children involved. Rebecca, also the mother of young hooper Sierra Hellemans, has witnessed the prodigious effects hooping has on children at both a personal and a professional level. Rebecca explained other major benefits that are often overlooked as well. “These are children in development stages of life. The youngest I work with is 5-years-old because, unless they have already been involved in movement activities from an early age (like yoga etc), they are just starting to connect the dots on how to move the hoop around the waist. As they progress in learning new skills, they develop their fine and gross motor skills and coordination through hoop dance.” Rebecca also noted that through learning choreography the children are also working on team building and trust. She said, “As the kids are practicing moves for their routine, for example partner weaves, they must learn cooperation and trust in their team members in order to complete the move without injuring each other.”
[Chloe is the daughter of Jennifer Clair.]
Julia Hartsell Crews of Hoopdrum in Carrboro, North Carolina, has been teaching children’s classes and camps for many years. She has experience teaching all levels of children from elementary school through high school students too. Julia admits that while there are no case studies, as such, through her own personal experience of talking to multitudes of parents, they all agree that hooping opened their child up in areas of self confidence and self esteem, especially at the middle school ages when a child may be going through an awkward phase. Her experience working with middle schoolers dealing with peer issues has allowed her to use hooping as a way to dive into those issues, address them gently and stop things before feelings get hurt. “Hooping gives us the opportunity to change behavior,” she explained. “We move with respect and I let them tell me how we can do that. I facilitate the answers by asking them questions. What do we need to be aware of in this class? What could get hurt in this class? We also change behavior by reframing language. Going from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I will’ – teaching them to open possibilities in their world.”
[Mridular Shanker knows all about “I will”. In fact, she’s been keeping herself busy breaking world records. She lives in Detroit, Michigan, USA.]
Julia has seen hooping become a sanctuary for a 9-year-old girl watching her parents go through a divorce, as well as a source of empowerment for an autistic girl who, after hooping with her for two years, developed the confidence to perform in a talent show. The combined years of experience of these four women and the children touched by hooping through their efforts, are evidence to the positive effect the hoop can have in the lives of our kids. Obviously physical fitness in a time when childhood obesity is a considered a crisis is one major draw to hooping, but increased self esteem, body awareness, improvement of fine and gross motor skills, team building, peer relations, better concentration, and a sense of responsibility are just more reasons to get your kid inside the circle. So if you’ve been wondering if hooping is really stimulating your child’s growth… the answer is a resounding YES!
Bonnie MacDougall of HavenHoopDance has been in the spin since 2002. She lives in Detroit, Michigan, USA, with her two boys. When she’s not dancing madly with her kids, she sells custom made hoops and teaches local and regional hoop dance classes and workshops.