The good old childhood days filled with games of hide and seek with the neighbourhood kids, cycle races and activities like climbing that tree to pluck the ripe mango may be slowly vanishing. These are giving way to more sedentary pursuits such as video games and watching cartoons of television. In an age where the time allotted to physical activity is becoming less and children look towards electronic devices for entertainment, parents have to take definite steps to nurture healthy and active children.
Obesity is a worrying trend among children in India and research suggests that the effect of a childhood bereft of physical activity can be disastrous. A report, ‘Physical activity for preschool children — How much and how?’ by Brian W. Timmons, Patti-Jean Naylor and Karin A. Pfeifferc emphasises how physically active preschool years will translate into a healthy and active adulthood. The report reveals a positive correlation between physical activity in preschoolers and positive mental well-being, effective social relations and less likelihood of becoming obese and having health problems.
So what can you do to encourage your child to be more active ? Here are five interesting ways to get your preschooler to expend a little energy and the bonus is that you would also be burning some fat alongside.
1. Plan a parent-child activity – This can be physically demanding while also a bonding exercise. Plan an activity with your child which includes going outdoors and soaking up the sun. It could be a weekly dip in the swimming pool or a daily bike ride to the park, or even a family trek through the outskirts of the city on weekends. Making this a regular feature of the week will ensure that your preschooler will look forward to fun times spent with the parents. You could also try DIY activities like building a tree house.
2.Get them involved in sports –There is nothing better than a game of football, cricket or hockey to keep one physically fit. Enrol them into a preschooler football club or a tennis coaching class. If none are available, take it upon yourself to teach your child a sport that requires intense physical activity. It is not only a chance to expose your children to how gender neutral all these games are, but it also allows them to develop effective social skills, motor coordination skills, good posture, muscular strength and endurance. Also, all that Vitamin D is good for their bones.
3.Set a daily routine with outdoor play –Time Include a mandatory play time with kids from the locality in your child’s routine to ensure that your child plays outdoors for at least an hour. This will not only be good for them physically but will also teach them to play and share with others, wait their turn and so on. It is a good routine to continue even when they start formal school as most schools don’t inculcate daily play time owing to academic pressures.
4. Get a furry friend – Pets are wonderful friends to have for a preschooler, as they not only do build your child’s immunity, but they also provide them with a partner in crime. Buy a medium-sized breed so that your child can accompany you while walking the dog. Puppies need persistent attention and walks at least twice a day. Taking care of a pet allows the development of a sense of responsibility in the preschooler towards their partner. Running and playing with the dog gives lot of exercise to the preschooler.
5. Establish an exercise routine – Children learn by observing their parents, so if mom and dad make it a point to stay agile and take up a fitness routine, children get a positive message about being active. Involve them once-in-a-while in your exercise or yoga routine and encourage them to do various poses or do fitness activities with you. It should not be too strenuous but something that preschoolers will enjoy. According to an article in the The Journal of Pediatrics, the influence of parents' physical activity levels on activity levels of young children is immense. Children with parents who are active tend to be active themselves. On the other hand, parents who lead a largely sedentary lifestyle will influence their children to follow in their footsteps. Therefore, it is important that you model behaviour that your child benefits from.
Adopting at least one or two of the above mentioned steps will improve the activity level of your preschooler. Initially, it might be a little taxing for you but it is well worth the effort, as once they grow up they would have developed a proclivity for an active lifestyle. Moreover, the wonder of nature is an experience that all children need to be exposed to and it is vital that we take that extra step to facilitate their interaction with the outdoors.