Engage Your Kids
in Some Healthy Activity

by Sarah Morris

Children ages two and up should engage in at least one hour of moderate physical activity per day. Unfortunately, unhealthy eating habits combined with the lack of adequate exercise means these goals are not being met.

Children develop basic motor skills through repetitive activities like running, jumping, throwing, catching and balancing. Children who begin to exercise regularly at an early age are more likely to grow up to maintain a normal weight and become healthy, active adults. In addition, early mastery of basic skills has been shown to positively impact academic performance. Your child's mental and physical development depends on the early acquisition of basic motor skills.

As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher and playmate. Use these fun suggestions to boost your child’s physical development.

Tips for Getting Your Family Active:
The safety of your child or children should always be your first priority. Childproof indoors and out. Push furniture to the walls and remove electrical cords before running or jumping inside. Never allow young children to play unsupervised outdoors, even in the backyard or on the sleepiest of streets. Make sure that you provide toys and equipment that are soft, lightweight and age-appropriate. Remember that physical development, much like reading and writing, is learned slowly over time.

Things you might want to keep on hand:
a variety of balls in different textures, sizes, shapes and colors; beanbags and plush toys that can be safely thrown indoors; bats, hockey sticks, racquets and paddles for outdoor play. Also consider stocking: washable chalk or paint for hopscotch; flying discs and saucers; hoops or inner tubes; a variety of cushions or pillows; kites or lightweight model planes. Don’t forget a push car, tricycle, bicycle or skates, with a helmet and pads to match, of course.

Lead by example! Children are far less likely to lose interest in games if you are there with them, participating and cheering them on.

Pack a healthy picnic and set off on a family hike to a neighborhood park. Use your child’s name to create a silly rhyme for skipping rope. Count how many bubbles each of you can pop. Set up a simple obstacle course in the backyard and hop, skip and jump your way through it. On rainy days try a variation of musical chairs with cushions on the floor. While the music is playing, dance, dance, dance! Toss water balloons or splash through the sprinklers in summer.

Always make a point of praising your child’s efforts and rewarding their accomplishments, no matter how small. Children blossom with supportive coaching. Having fun is the goal of play; everyone is a winner.

Use the appropriate words to congratulate and encourage your child. Be specific and always point out the hits, not the misses. Be adaptable and change the rules or configuration of a game to accommodate little hands or legs.

Children are born with an unquenchable thirst to learn about their world. Physical activity is a natural part of the process of discovery. Learn to love playing with your child and watch them bloom into happy, healthy adults.

Submitted by Sarah Morris, on behalf of Primrose Schools- where the difference is in the people and curriculum for a standards-based preschool education.

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