Let's Get Physical!
Young children are active by nature. They are at a developmental stage in which physical activity plays a vital part in exploration of the environment. Similarly, children crave opportunities to move their bodies. They can engage in quiet, non-physical activities, such as watching or listening, for short periods of time, but even when highly interested, they will eventually give in to their need for movement and physical engagement.
Movement plays a critical role in children's health and the development of important capabilities. For example, young children learn to run, skip, hop and coordinate muscles primarily with practice. We also know that children who develop healthy habits early, including regular exercise, are more likely to be physically fit throughout their lives.
Since adults have much less natural need for physical activity, it is easy to forget to regularly incorporate these activities into the day. Regular year-round exercise is essential in children's development of healthy eating habits, for maintaining muscle, and in improving coordination.
Unfortunately, many young children are suffering the consequences of inactivity. Pediatricians and other early childhood health experts recognize obesity as a growing health concern among young children.
Since young children require regular and heightened nutrition for developing bones, tissues, and organs, young children's weight is best addressed through exercise. Inactivity, more than overeating, is considered the major cause of childhood obesity. Regular and vigorous physical activity is considered the best route to establish and maintain healthy weight.
Consider if your child care provider implements the following to help ensure they are fostering physical activity in children:
- Whenever possible, select learning activities that have a movement component.
- Ensure that outdoor play is considered an important part of the daily routines.
- Include outdoor activities that encourage children to move vigorously. Initiate active games, such as tag or relay races, to encourage sustained movement among the children.
- Provide indoor space for movement, especially when weather limits outdoor play. Set up an indoor obstacle course, group games or dance activities during the day.
- Be a role model. Demonstrate enthusiasm for and dedication to regular exercise.