In the last 25 years the number of obese people has trebled. Doctors and the government alike are concerned, and for good reason too; especially when you consider the dangers associated with being over-weight. Children are not spared as this ‘epidemic’ spreads through families.
The situation wouldn’t as bad as it is if parents understood the fact that the formative toddler years of the child are the best time to establish good exercise behaviour patterns. By encouraging physical play, parents can really help curb this ravaging menace.
The benefits of physical play for toddlers
Physical play in babies and toddlers has many physical benefits: These include:
- Increased muscle strength
- Improved bone density
Apart from the obvious exercise benefits, these activities can also boost physical wellbeing much later in life by reducing the risk of injury and diseases, such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. All of this makes it very important for you to encourage your kids to play actively from a very young age.
Physical play also breeds confidence in gross motor movements. This leaves the toddlers to enjoy and challenge themselves in physical activity both in the present and years down the line.
As a guideline, you need to be sure your kids aged 0-5 years aren’t inactive for more than one hour at a time unless they are sleeping. You need to be sure that they get at least two hours of good physical activity per day.
Getting your child into active play
We said above that your kids should play for two hours per day. This doesn’t mean they have to do two hours of endurance training without a break! A full grown fit adult would struggle with that let alone a child!
If you understand communication with children, you will know that by just encouraging movement, you can get your kids to engage in physical play. You can have interesting objects for them to reach out to or walk towards, play games and sing rhymes that will encourage them to move their limbs. While out and about, build in enough time to allow you walk your child instead of carrying them or leaving them in the buggy. These simple but powerful steps will facilitate opportunities for physical activity for your toddler.
Play ideas here include tossing a balloon, rolling a ball, playing hopscotch or making the kid chase you on a balance bike. Just get on your own bike and try to get them to catch you! By getting them on a bike young you can sow the seeds for a lifetime love affair with cycling. This can mean a lifetime of health and vitality.
As they make the switch from toddlers to pre-schoolers, you have to keep them active. At this stage, it is important for you to help them in their development of movement skills. Some of the skills to be thought about here include kicking, running and throwing. These take a lot of practice and you have to be on hand to provide them with feedback and encouragement.
With the amount of sedentary activities available to kids these days it is important to encourage physical play, which not only will benefit children but adults as well.