Advice Column, Toddler

The importance of physical activity in the younger child’s development

In today’s sedentary modern lifestyle, pre-schoolers, toddlers and even infants are spending far more time on electronic devices or watching television than ever before. This means less time being physically active at an age when physical activity is vital for the development of the sensory motor and perceptual skills that are essential for learning.

The trap of technology 

Increasing screen time has been linked with delays in cognitive, language and motor development, as well as attention problems in young children. It is therefore very important to limit the amount of time your little one spends on screens and should not exceed an hour per day. To make it seem to your child that he’s watching more — and to keep his little brain from going on autopilot as he watches — break up viewing into 10- to 15-minute increments. Rather, children’s time should be spent engaging in physical activities that boost their development both physically and psychologically. 

How much physical activity does a young child need?

Nicole Hillburn, Paediatric Physiotherapist and Clamber Club Expert says that recent guidelines indicate that infants and toddlers need 180 minutes of physical activity (of any intensity) per day, and children from the age of five need at least an hour of vigorous physical activity every day. “Children of all ages also need to engage in activities, such as climbing playground equipment, which increase their physical strength on a weekly basis,” says Hillburn. 

What are the long-term benefits of physical activity?

“On the emotional and psychological side, active children tend to have lower anxiety levels and improved mood and self-esteem compared to inactive children,” says Liz Senior, Occupational Therapist and Founder of Clamber Club. “Children who are more physically active are also likely to perform better in the classroom due to the impact exercise has on attention, concentration span and physical strength,” she adds. 

Specifically, the health benefits of physical activity include the development of healthy musculoskeletal tissues, cardiovascular system and neuromuscular awareness, not to mention maintenance of a healthy body weight. 

How can we keep young children active?

The good news is that there are a variety of ways to keep young children engaged in physical activity. Implementing just a few changes in your child’s day can help increase their activity levels – and it can also be a lot of fun! 

Here are some age-appropriate ideas: 

Vigorous activity for toddlers:

  • Riding bikes
  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Dancing
  • Learning to kick a ball
  • Chasing bubbles

Vigorous activity for pre-schoolers:

  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Riding bikes
  • Running races outside
  • Playing with a ball
  • Dancing
  • Playing soccer

Moderate activity for toddlers and pre-schoolers:

  • Action songs 
  • Water or sand play where there is some movement involved 
  • Scavenger hunt in the garden 
  • Walking around the shops 

Strengthening activities are also very important for all ages. These include activities like monkey bars, climbing ladders, fireman’s poles, cargo nets, ring swings etc. You may not have this kind of equipment at home, but Clamber Clubs around the country have specially-designed equipment that enable children to learn through moving their bodies.  

Get involved in your child’s development

Interestingly enough, children with active parents have been shown to have higher levels of physical activity. At Clamber Club, children and parents have an opportunity to be active together, using their imaginations, experiencing the joy of movement and having fun.   

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