As I sit here writing this, I’m desperately trying to come up with an excuse not to go to the gym. Fortunately, I’m an adult(ish), so I get to decide whether I go for a run or sit on the sofa scoffing hobnobs. However, as parents, it’s up to us to instil good habits in our children early on so they can carry them throughout their lives. Unfortunately, inspiring children to play and exercise isn’t always - well - child’s play.
These days, there’s new technology which holds all the fun of games without the effort of moving. So how do we get our little ones up and about when they’d rather sit watching TV or playing on their tablet?
the importance of inspiring children to play and exercise
We all know the health benefits of exercise for adults, and many of them are the same for children. Running, jumping and playing gives us healthier hearts and lungs and lowers our blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also gives little ones stronger muscles and bones, making them less prone to injury during those inevitable bumps.
Exercise also has massive positive effects on our mental health. It releases mood-boosting endorphins that make us feel happy. Physically active children are more likely to be alert in school, and exercise improves self-esteem at any age. Who doesn’t want a happy, positive tot who feels like they can overcome any obstacle?
The NHS recommends that children not be inactive for long periods of time unless they are sleeping. Limit the time they spend watching TV or playing on the tablet, and make more time to focus on letting them be active. Children love to play, it’s up to us to give them the chance to do it in a physical way.
we like to move it move it
We all know that new babies aren’t particularly mobile, so just try to get them active during tummy time. Lay your precious bundle on their belly and watch as they try to discover the world around them by lifting their head. Eventually, they’ll start doing tiny push-ups and even rolling over! For more tummy time tips, check out our blog post on the topic.
When your little one starts crawling, let them wander. Active babies are great at tiring themselves out given the chance. Find a safe space where they can roam freely without bumping into anything dangerous. Why not visit the local play area for them to explore? You could even set up play dates so they can make new little friends at the same time!
We don’t always have time to go all the way to the park, so create your own at home! Use some chalk to create your own playground on the pavement or patio. Draw a ‘tightrope’ or hopscotch for your toddling tot to follow so they can practise their coordination and balance.
Unfortunately, the sun doesn’t always shine for playtime. Don’t let rain stop play! Raid the toybox and spend some quality time playing with your precious babe. Not only does this keep them entertained and promote their fine motor skills, it also helps to develop your all-important bond.
we like to boogie
Everybody loves to dance, and from an early age many children react to music by wiggling their bodies. Play some music for your baby and watch them bounce and kick. When they’re older, holding dance parties in the kitchen or lounge can be great fun. Blast some of your favourite tunes, dance like no one is watching, and hope that the neighbours don’t spot you!
follow the leader
At home, get your little helper involved in chores. We all know how tiring spring cleaning can be, making it a great physical activity for toddlers. It also teaches good habits early on and gets them used to helping you around the house (we can all dream).
Make doing the laundry a game – they can collect different coloured clothing items to put in the washing machine, or match pairs of socks while you do the ironing. Maybe even invest in a toy hoover or dustpan and brush so your mini-me can keep you company while you clean. If the weather allows, take them outside to tidy up the garden - gathering leaves and jumping in the pile is great fun!
When out and about on short journeys, try leaving the pushchair at home. If you’re walking, your little one should be too, provided they can walk that is. Allow a little more time for that trip to the shops, and enjoy spending some quality time with your child.
the sign of any successful play day
Ultimately, one of the best ways to inspire children to play and exercise is by living a healthy lifestyle ourselves. Children do pay attention to us - admittedly not always when we’d like them to - and copy what they see. If we have a positive relationship with exercise and staying active, our children will likely inherit it. Maybe I should go to the gym after all…