Physical Activity
22 April, 2022

Physical Activity for Young Children

It’s now universally recognised that even pre-toddlers require the opportunity for regular physical activity.

Freedom of choice with physical activity for young children

Firstly, we need to define what we mean by “physical activity”.

As almost every parent has discovered, trying to get a younger child to undertake exercise they’re not interested in, can be a nightmare. You’re unlikely to be able to ask your 4-year-old to go and do some squatthrusts!

The good news is that most parents don’t need to try because given even half a chance, most youngsters will run themselves to exhaustion.

The secret is to try and give them as much opportunity as possible to play in a physical way. If they’re playing physically demanding games, most children will happily run and jump for hours without you needing to say a word.

What exercise is needed?

Nature designed people to move, not lead sedentary lifestyles.

Your children should be moving more or less regularly from the time they’re able to crawl. Most experts suggest:

  • pre and crawling age – sometimes called “tummy time”. Place a covering or blanket on the floor and allow your baby to do as they wish. It’ll strengthen their muscles and encourage their explorations. Allow them at least 30 minutes per day but make sure the area is safe of course and don’t leave them unattended;
  • toddler ages. The best thing here is to try and avoid instantly defaulting to the pram or pushchair. True, it probably won’t be possible to always give them the chance to toddle along when you’re out because time might not permit it but if you allow them to climb toddler-safe frames and slides (under supervision), that would be great. At home, encourage them to play games that involve moving around but ensure floors and hard edges of furniture are all padded, as falls will be commonplace;
  • 2-5 years. You should encourage your child to get as much physical exercise as possible. Games,suitable sports and walking rather than using pushchairs where possible. Common sense here should prevail to help you ensure your child gets plenty of exercise.

The risks of technology

Even if there is considerable disagreement amongst specialists as to the psychological effects of too much technology on a child’s development, there is a general consensus that too much time spent on computers and phones IS harmful if it means lots of reduction in physical playtime.

There are many factors that might influence your views of how much time your younger child should spend watching videos or playing computer games. However, a powerful warning sign would be if they start showing aregular reluctance to play physical games outside preferringinstead to spend time sitting watching a screen. Should that happen, you may need to take some action.

Physical conditions

It is possible that a child’s seeming reluctance to participate in physical exercise is attributable to one or more medical conditions.

It can’t be stressed strongly enough that this would be unusual but it is not impossible.

So, if your child seems unwilling to undertake much physical activity, even if you can’t see any obvious cause, it would be sensible to consult your doctor.

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