Small children are naturally active, thanks to the games they play all through the day. However, with the proliferation of TV, computers and other media, children are increasingly shunning physical activity. On the other hand, there are children who are too active for their own good. Both extremes can cause lasting damages to your child’s health. Read on to find out how you can strike a balance between activity and rest.
Does your preschooler prefer the couch over the playground? Or does your little one refuse to settle down even after hours and hours of running, jumping and playing? While too less exercise and physical activity is a one-way ticket to childhood obesity and related problems, too much can leave your child burnt out, cause injuries to his tender body that might end up being permanent. It is important for parents to know how much physical exercise a child requires.
Children or adults, everyone requires physical activity. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, USA, recommends that children and adults should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. For preschoolers, this physical activity can go up to 3 hours, but should be distributed throughout the day. This could be a combination of structured and unstructured free play. While structured activities involve exercises and sports training, unstructured- the favorite activity for any child, is the free playtime.
Tips to Promote Physical Activity
- Encourage your child and his friends in various games like – playing with different balls, hide and seek, cycling, keeping balloons afloat, run around playing tag.
- Choose toys that encourage movement. Balls, kites, frisbees and cycles can be some of the best toys for this age group.
- Indulge in doing a physical activity as a family from time to time. You could together take a stroll in the park, visit a zoo and walk around or play a game of cricket or soccer. Children tend to imitate what the adults in the family do, so if you are physically active, they too will be encouraged to be the same.
- Your child has grown up enough to be independent now. You don’t necessarily need to take him to the park or run around wherever he goes. Make your child understand the boundaries within which he can roam about, and things that he should or should not do, and let him be independent to discover his world on his own.
- Take the stairs. With lifts being available in almost all the living spaces now, the stairs have become just an invisible fixture in one corner of the building for many. But make it a point to make your preschooler use the stairs for both climbing up and down.
- Ensure your child does not remain in a sedentary position for more than 1 hour, except while sleeping. Reduce screen time, and encourage activities like playing with water, dough or pots and pans in the kitchen.
In case your child is on the other side of the spectrum, being extremely active, or you are nurturing dreams for your child to excel in the field of sports, remember these points so that your child does not get overtrained and eventually burn out –
- Competitive sports are not recommended for children under the age of 5. The best way to keep them active is using various active play ideas. You could enroll them in structured activities like recreational gymnastics or dance, but remember, your child is still too young to take up serious sports like karate or soccer.
- Ensure your preschooler gets ample rest between the playtimes. The muscles and bones require time to recover from the exertion of active play, so it is necessary to have some down time too for the children. Down time does not necessarily have to mean TV time. Encourage your child to pick up a book, or do some gardening.
- If your child (Between the ages of 5 and 6 years) has begun training for a sport, ensure that the training sessions happen for not more than 5 days a week. Ideally, a child should be trained for not more than 18 to 20 hours a week. Also, there should be a break of one or two months in a year from the training.
- Look out for signs of damage. These could be – Lack of motivation, irritable behavior, crankiness, getting tired easily or poor performance.
Always remember, physical activity is essential to keep your child healthy. If the lack or excess of it is affecting your child’s health and lifestyle adversely, you should immediately make the necessary corrections to strike the correct balance in your child’s life.