By Sinead Hamill
Physical activity plays a crucial part in children’s development and well-being. Unfortunately, many of our children are not getting enough exercise due to modern day lifestyles. Worryingly, this sedentary lifestyle, along with unhealthy food choices has led to an increased rate of overweight and obese children in Ireland.
So how much physical activity is enough?
The Irish Heart Foundation recommends that children partake in at least one hour of moderate intensity physical activity every day, such as swimming, cycling, dancing, brisk walking, active play and other sports. Exercise is also a huge factor in building and maintaining muscle strength, flexibility and bone health.
Fortunately pre-school aged children have bundles of energy and will be only toohappy to partake in high energy activities, particularly if you practice the following steps:
Be a positive role-model
Show your children how enjoyable being active can be. Chose to walk or cycle instead of driving when possible. Go swimming with your kids and have fun splashing about. Go to the park when the weather is nice and have a run around. You can even put your old gymnastics skills to the test and try a tumble, handstand or cartwheel. And if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. You’ll all have a great tummy workout from the laughing if nothing else.
This is a key motivator for children. Keep activities manageable or slightly challenging. If they are too advanced the fun element goes and so does your child’s interest.
Children love to be praised, particularly when they are learning a new skill. Encourage them to keep at it and they will continue improving their skills.
The most simple and natural form of exercise. It’s up to you to provide a safe play environment for your children. This could be in the form of a swing set or trampoline in your back garden, an organised play date or supplying simple play equipment such as a skipping rope, hula hoop, space hoppers and balls.
Pre-schoolers are ready for games with simple rules and love to take part in group activities. Think of all the games we played ourselves, ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’, ‘What Time is it Mr Wolf?’, ‘Musical Statues’. They can practice ball skills with games such as ‘Donkey’ or football. Racing and action songs are hugely popular with this age group. If you’re at a loss for ideas a simple google search will give you tons of options.
So now it’s time to get your skates on and ready, steady, go…