Starting a new recreational activity can be stressful for many children. Just the thought of stepping onto a sports field or into a dance studio can be daunting.
In an effort to encourage hesitant youngsters to try a new sport or activity, Woden Community Service (WCS) has launched a new inclusive program that welcomes primary school-aged children, including those with additional needs.
The Molonglo Movers sports and arts program has only been operating for five months, and already dozens of children have joined to learn new skills, have fun and make new friends in a safe space free from judgement or bias.
The free after school program is held at Charles Weston Primary School every Thursday from 3:30 pm until 5 pm. It gives children – and their parents – a taste of the inclusive recreational activities available in the Molonglo Valley.
Representatives from a range of sporting clubs and arts groups provide snapshots of their organisations and parents have opportunities to talk to the coaches or trainers about their children’s individual needs.
WCS community development and engagement manager Katie Peek said children from all cultural and social backgrounds were invited to attend the sessions, and those with additional needs would be supported.
“Children and their parents are welcome to come and try everything from gymnastics to soccer and tae kwon do to drama and dance,” she said.
“We aim to get local clubs in for two back-to-back sessions so the children can get familiar with the trainers and get a solid taste of the experience.
“The Molonglo Movers program is designed to be equal opportunity, so children with additional needs can engage with their peers in a supportive and understanding environment.”
WCS inclusion support officer Samantha Reeves said it was important for all children to participate in recreational activities that boosted their confidence, made them feel included and built strong social connections.
She said, as well as supporting children with physical and intellectual disabilities, the program encouraged all children, including those from diverse cultural and social backgrounds, to participate.
“The benefits of playing a sport or doing an activity like drama is significant for all children,” Samantha said.
“But there aren’t a lot of options out there for children with additional needs.”
The Molonglo Movers showcases a whole range of clubs and organisations that are inclusive, supportive and flexible.
Katie said there had been a positive response to the program so far, with children, their family members and friends coming back each week to see what’s offered.
“It’s the first inclusive program in this area and we’re building a nice community,” she added.
“The children can try the various activities, get to know the trainers and then may choose to sign up with the organisation.”
WCS welcomes interest from any clubs that would like to participate in the program. Organisations could already be offering inclusive activities or might want to learn about how they can adapt to accommodate children with additional needs.
WCS has teamed up with Northside Community Service to host an Accessible Sport and Recreation Expo at Woden School on Friday 3 June from 3 pm until 6 pm.
The expo will be a one-stop shop for families and aims to boost children of all abilities’ participation in sports and recreation in the community.
Local clubs will provide information about their activities and kids can try new activities and register for a range of programs.
Katie said organisations including Sense Rugby, the Water Wombats, Woden Arts, Xtreme Stars, Kulture Break and Abilities Unlimited Australia had registered stalls at the expo.
The Molonglo Movers program was made possible by a Department of Social Services Social and Community Participation Grant.
For more information about the Molonglo Movers program or the Accessible Sport and Recreation Expo at Woden School visit Woden Community Service or call 6282 2644 or email Communitydevelopment@wcs.org.au