Physical activity with children

Breaking down physical activity movements, and easing the pace into resting time with children.

Research indicates that when children are involved in physical and movement activities as children they tend to stay active as adults. Regular physical activities helps children build and maintain healthy bones, strengthen muscles and joints and control weight. It will also increase the child’s capacity for learning.

As parents and caregivers we need to ensure that children have an opportunity to spend at least 60 minutes a day engaged in active play outside every day. If weather is not favorable they can plan indoor activities such dancing to music, active games, motor challenges or an obstacle courses.

Set your schedule for active play before you are going to have a structured time. It may take children several minutes to calm down, but they will be able to concentrate much better once they do. You can use soft music with slow moving exercises, stretching or have them practice slow breathing. Incorporate movement through the day, such as telling children every time they get up from a sitting position they have to stretch and touch the ground, and then try to touch the ceiling (or let the child pick their own movement).

Have children do skipping or hopping movements around the room one or two times before they sit down to eat or engage in any other sit down activity. They could also go around the room, flopping their arms like a bird, etc. Engage children in stop and go game, such as red-light, green-light or Simon says. This will help the children with controlling their movement.

According to Steven Sanders, author of “Active for Life,” the physical skills children develop can be divided into three skill categories:

  • Locomotor skills, such as: Walking, running, hopping, skipping, jumping, climbing, crawling and fleeing.
  • Stability skills, such as: Turning, twisting, bending, transferring weight, stretching, swinging and swaying.
  • Manipulative skills, such as: Throwing, catching, kicking, punting, dribbling, volleying and striking with a bat or racket.

These skill themes develop in sequence. Children learn about movement as they practice. Teach children skills by breaking down the specific movements. Take rolling a ball for example, have the child keep their feet and arms together, close to the body and twist their body to roll. All movement requires practice, practice and more practice.

We need to plan physical activity on a daily basis for our children. Children who participate in regular exercise are less likely to become obese and more likely to be active throughout their life.

We need to remember to always exercise with our children. It doesn’t do any good to expect the child to exercise when we do not do it our self. Michigan State University Extension encourages trying to make exercise a family fun time, and everyone will be more willing to participate. Who knows, we may feel better ourselves by toning our bodies.

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