If you have children or care for children as an occupation, you’re in a position of influence. Use that influence to encourage your children to be active. Research shows that children whose parents and caregivers are active are five times more likely to be active themselves.
The Benefits of Physical Activity in Children
There are many health benefits to be gained from encouraging physical activity in children like:
- Development of healthy bones, strong muscles, coordination and physical dexterity
- Development of self-esteem, positivity and a healthy sleep pattern
- Decreased risk of childhood obesity
- Decreased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
Different Fitness Needs According to Age
It might surprise you to learn that humans learn more physical skills during the first six years of life than at any time. This is when they learn the basic skills. So it’s vital for babies, as it is for older children, to be regularly active. Let your baby be as free as possible. Don’t keep him or her in a high chair or infant car seat for more than an hour a day.
Encouraging Baby’s Activity
Sit on a floor mat and play with your infant. Place the baby on his or her tummy for a short while every day to allow a little stretching. This encourages muscle development. However, be alert. Always watch your baby when they play on their tummy. Never let them fall asleep in that position. Encourage babies to exercise by placing toys just out of reach. The child must work to reach the toy. He or she will roll, push and pull, using their muscles.
Encouraging Toddlers’ Activity
Toddlers (age 1 to 3 years) need at least three hours of physical activity, spread throughout the day. Fortunately, kids of that age are naturally active. Suitable activities include:
- Dancing to music and acting along with action songs
- Playing with a ball. This provides exercise like throwing, catching and kicking
- Send them outside to the backyard or another safe place, to run about and play outdoor
- Building blocks and drawing materials are great for light activity and overall development
- Make sure they get a chance to rest and take regular naps. Proper rest is also essential
Activity for Pre-Schoolers (Over Three)
Like toddlers, pre-schoolers should have a one-hour session activity once daily, preferably outdoors. Something like swimming, playing football or running. Supervised activities like cycling, skipping and swimming will help them to grow and develop their motor skills. Get a climbing frame for your back garden or playroom. At this age, your child may become interested in video games. Try to limit this activity to 40 minutes per day.
Activities for Children with Disabilities or Health Conditions
Speak to the family doctor about suitable physical activities as your child grows. Appropriate physical activities are good for children with disabilities or health conditions. It’s possible to adapt some sports for kids with physical disabilities. Contact your local sports authorities about any disability programmes available.
Motivating Your Child To Be Active
First, motivate yourself. As mentioned, children are more likely to be active if cared for by active adults. Choose age-appropriate activities. You don’t want your kids to be bored or frustrated. Kids love having fun, so make activities fun. Play with your kids. They’ll enjoy running, skipping or playing ball with you. See that they visit the playground regularly. When their friends visit, encourage active games like tug-of-war.
Physical Activities for Older Children
As children get older, there is a wider range of activities. They could take up athletics, sports or martial arts. Encourage recreation like skateboarding, hill-walking or hiking. Include these activities on family holidays and weekends. Encourage older children to exercise two or three times weekly.
Getting Physical Is Good
Making physical activities a regular part of your family lifestyle will have a positive effect on your family’s health and happiness. It is a win/win situation.