Promoting Health and Connection in Schools
Childhood is an important time for development, learning, and establishing good habits for a healthy future. Schools provide ongoing opportunities for children that aim to promote lifelong skills, with an equal importance on academic achievement, physical health and social and emotional wellbeing. Teachers are faced with the challenge of providing an inclusive and engaging program that incorporates physical fitness, social inclusion and improving mental health outcomes. With COVID comes the additional challenge of providing a sport that is not close contact or team centric and that can be played outdoors. That’s where table tennis or Ping Pong comes in: Using this fun, wholesome sport, we can motivate students to get involved, get active, and have a happy healthy future.
Building communities and social inclusion
Table tennis is fun! Children and adults alike bond over joyous moments and laughter. Creating a fun-filled environment encourages participation and inclusion, even from withdrawn students. Table tennis is simple to play and can be enjoyed by students of all ages and sizes, avoiding the division created by sports favouring specific attributes. It can provide common interests between unlikely pairs and support development of new friendships. Children develop a range of skills including teamwork and communication to coordinate between team-mates. They learn important values such as respect, discipline, and patience.
The physical benefits for our kids
Children aged 5-18 are recommended to engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day for good health. Only 23% of Australian children are meeting these recommendations. Encouraging participation in physical activity can be challenging, particularly if a student lacks confidence. Presenting physical activity as a fun game to enjoy with peers, such as table tennis, can help to minimise this challenge. Relaxed competition can also provide motivation without pressure and social stress.
Regular participation in table tennis supports bone strength, muscle control, and cardiovascular endurance for overall health. Playing table tennis 2-3 times a week can increase strength by 20%. Children also develop many physical skills including balance, hand-eye-coordination, reflexes, and predictive skills. Encouraging healthy habits from a young age can improve long-term health by reducing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, osteoporosis, and obesity.
Known cognitive benefits
Physical activity also has incredible benefits for cognitive functioning and mental well-being. Table tennis utilizes focus, decision making, and strategic thinking. It also increases concentration and long-term memory off the playing field. One study found that after 12 weeks of aerobic exercise 3-4 times a week, players had increased brain oxygen levels and performed better in cognitive and creative tests. Exercise also releases endorphins to improve mood, self-esteem, sleep, and can even relieve anxiety and depression.
Australian Made Table Tennis Manufacturer Pongo provides branded ‘All-Weather’ Ping Pong tables to schools, customised in the schools livery and colour schemes. Sometimes designed by the teachers, students or Pongo’s in-house design team. Their mission is to support a more connected and healthier generation and to create happiness outdoors. Co-founder and primary school teacher, Karinda, says “These tables are a perfect solution for all schools. They provide an engaging and inclusive activity that can be enjoyed by all students – promoting fundamental skills such as teamwork, strategizing and persistence; not to mention the physical benefits of increased moto development and coordination. They are quickly assembled and can be moved to suit all playing conditions – and provide an excellent wet weather timetable activity for teachers!”
Introducing table tennis to schools can provide students with valuable opportunities to increase physical activity and build new friendships, for overall health and well-being. Students can learn many important skills, all while having a great time with their friends.