Is this easier said than done!? Does it depend on the age and environment a child is in?
Anyone who has seen children in a playground knows that most are naturally physically active and love to move around. But what might not be apparent is that climbing to the top of a slide or swinging from the monkey bars can help lead kids to a lifetime of being active- and it is the early promotion of physical activity and good habits that can lead to healthy bodies and minds for life!
Gone are the days of children spending hours playing in the streets during the day and after school – children are spending a great deal of time in Long Day Care and BSC/ASC programs – so it is in these environments that children must be exposed to health and physical movement programs to set them up for success in the future.
Benefits of being active
The benefits of being active for children are, that their bodies can do the things they want and need them to do. Why? Because regular exercise provides these benefits:
- strong muscles and bones
- healthy weight
- decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- better sleep
- a better outlook on life
Physically active children also are more likely to be motivated, focused, and successful in school and life. And mastering physical skills builds confidence at every age.
How to get children active
- Choosing the right activities for a child’s age – make sure age appropriate to maintain attention
- Giving children plenty of opportunities to be active – obstacle courses set up daily, planned exercise programs, access to balls and equipment, incursions with third-party providers of soccer, tennis etc.
- Keeping the focus on fun- children need fun and excitement to get started, and keep going!
When children enjoy an activity, they want to do more of it. Practising a skill — whether it’s swimming or riding a tricycle — improves their abilities and helps them feel accomplished, especially when the effort is noticed and praised. These good feelings often make children want to continue the activity and try new things, it is always good to broaden challenges and experiences. Be sure to share children’s physical and active successes with families – so they can further these interests outside of the Early Childhood/School settings.
According to Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, children need the following:
Birth to 1 year: moving on the floor from birth (including ‘tummy time’, when you place your child in a safe place, such as a play mat on the floor)
1 to 5 years: at least 3 hours of being physically active, spread throughout the day
5 to 12 years: at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.
This should include a variety of aerobic activities as well as activities that strengthen muscle and bone. Children should also limit the amount of time they spend sitting, and those aged over 5 should spend no more than 2 hours a day in front of a screen. This recommended maximum screen time drops to 1 hour for children aged 2 to 5, with no screen time at all recommended for children under 2. Screen Time = Inactive Children.
So whatever you do and however you do it, be the active change, be the motivator, embrace the positive endorphins that come from being in nature and moving your body- change starts with you!