GIRLS WANT TO BE ACTIVE
When teenage boys play football or go skateboarding, there are few girls who join in. Yet, studies show that girls actually want to be active just as much as boys. So, what can we do to motivate more girls to engage in play and activity?
Youth needs to be physically active, and that’s something we all agree on. At the same time, we know that many eventually drop out of organized sports activities, and the dropout rate is particularly high during middle school years. However, while boys often continue with self-organized activities, this isn’t as common among girls. In fact, the users of a typical soccer field or skatepark are approximately 80% boys and only 20% girls! Girls seem to prefer different activities.
THE GIRLS AT THE MOTOR SKILL PARK
At Finnøy in Stavanger Municipality, Norway, we encounter a group of girls out in the schoolyard. Here, they have a Motor Skill Park that encourages balance play and motor movements. The girls use the playground both during recess and after school hours.
SOCIAL MEETING PLACE
These girls appreciate the opportunity to be social while staying active. It’s precisely the social aspect that researchers emphasize when it comes to what girls value in self-organized physical activity. “During recess, we often hang out on the activity racks. Sometimes we challenge each other to do the weirdest or trickiest things without falling off,” the girls enthusiastically share.
Research also indicates that girls approach their activities differently than boys. While boys often enjoy competition, girls prefer engaging in activities without strict rules. While boys might be inspired by a field with lines and goals, girls generally desire more creative, free movement.
Even though the girls are motivated to master new things, it’s not primarily about competing against others. ‘It’s fun when it’s a bit challenging; that way, we don’t get bored,’ says Anne. It’s as much play as it is physical activity, and the girls seem to enjoy it. This play elevates their heart rate, strengthens muscles, and prevents injuries, and they concentrate on mastering increasingly difficult challenges.
THE NEED FOR ACTIVITY SPACES FOR GIRLS
The more competitive the element in the activity, the greater the difference in interest seems to be between girls and boys. Soccer and ice rinks are the prime examples, where over 80% of users are boys. However, when looking at facilities that girls use as much as boys, they tend to be play areas.
THE MOTOR SKILL PARK:
Motor Skill parks are designed to provide high stimulation of balance and motor skills through creative and free play. The concept facilitates both play and exercise in one.
The threshold for trying out the equipment should be low, while at the same time, it should be challenging enough for everyone, always, to find something new and exciting to master.
POINTERS FOR CREATING AN ATTRACTIVE ACTIVITY AREA FOR GIRLS
- Equalizer: Breaking down the barriers at informal outdoor sport and recreational spaces, Elisabeth Högdahl and Karin Book, Malmö University