Most parents count on summer to promote physical activity and exercise. The longer, warmer days beckon our kids outside, and play time just seems to naturally happen. But then it’s back to school, and couch potatoes often reappear (in both generations). It’s worth thinking about this transition from summer-to-school now because those habits are forming in children from a young age.
Many of us hit upon the idea of the logistical solution once school starts – find a class, join a team – knowing that if it’s in the schedule, it’s more likely to happen. And as we – and the preschools and kindergartens to which we send our children – all know, regular exercise is a very good idea. The old myths that young children are inherently, sufficiently active have been replaced with growing concern about obesity levels in young children due to overall inactive lifestyles. We know that there are short and long-term physical and mental benefits to regular exercise, and that there are no shortcuts to those benefits.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
- An indoor play space should be available to allow sufficient running.
- Outdoor play should be scheduled twice a day.
- An outdoor play space should offer both fixed and portable play equipment and a paved surface for wheeled toys.
- Active play time should never be withheld as punishment.
As for those scheduled team and class activities, keep a few things in mind. Preschoolers are not ready for competition. They won’t really understand “doing your best,” or “giving the other kid a chance” until they are in fourth grade. What they need now is for you to support the skills they are developing: running, hitting a ball, and enjoying the water.
However, the old adage is true: children learn better from what they see than from what they hear. So – as a family – keeping active should be a year-round habit. Here’s some easy ways to keep fit throughout the year:
- Visit playgrounds, parks, and wide open spaces regularly. Bring along some extra things like large balls, kites, and ropes for jumping and (supervised!) tug-of-war. Parents can enrich the time by making an obstacle course through the playground and see who can remember it or finish it fastest.
- Many families treasure weekly family walks. It generally takes some humoring for the more reluctant members, but scavenger items usually work for our children.
- When weather interferes, get out the exercise mats and Twister® games, or download some stretching and balancing exercises from family fitness websites. Remember: keep children away from exercise equipment for safety reasons.
Above all, make sure that keeping active and fit is still fun for your children – if they’re having fun, they’ll build a life-long habit of playing and keeping active without it seeming like a chore.
Cathy Jo Mattson, on-site owner of The Goddard School®
The Goddard School located in Collierville offers a year-round program for children from six weeks to six-years-old. For more information on why The Goddard School located in Collierville is the place for fun and learning, please contact Cathy Jo Mattson at 901-861-0108.