How active are your kids?
Do they get the one hour a day of moderately intense physical activity recommended for children under the age of 16?
Parents who grew up in the 70s, 80s and 90s often say that their childhoods were more active than the youth of today and Australian research supports this.
Today, the average Aussie kid watches between 20 and 30 hours of television each week while other passive activities such as computer games, social media and homework also compete for their time.
Paediatric Occupational Therapist Dagney Hopp, from Kids First’s Children’s Services in Sydney, says that encouraging children to lead active lifestyles establishes good health and habits for life.
“In Australia today, 1 in 5 children are overweight or obese.”
“Patterns and attitudes to physical activity are established early in a child’s life, and so it’s in a child’s best interest for parents to get them off the couch and outside for some active fun.”
According to Dagney, physical activity has many benefits and also enhances children’s social skills.
“Most forms of physical activity are not only great for kids’ health, but also a fun way for children to meet new friends. It doesn’t matter if the child plays at a park, swims at a beach or joins a local sporting team, if that activity is regular enough for the child to develop skill and confidence, their competence will also build their self esteem, co-operation and co-ordination skills.”
Give your child active choices
Dagney says that children who get opportunities to try a variety of unstructured creative activities and sports often develop a life-long interest in activity.
“When kids get the chance to try lots of different things, they develop a range of skills and interests, while also avoiding the boredom that can set in if they specialise in one sport too soon.”
“Parents need to remember that the activities they enjoyed as a youth may not be of interest to their child. The more activities a child experiences, the more options they have to find past times that they will enjoy throughout their life.”
What kinds of activity are right for my child’s age?
Active imaginative play at home, in parks and other safe locations is perfect for toddlers.
Help your child develop good coordination with lots of movement games. Basic skills like jumping, running, climbing and sliding are essential to learning and development
Allow your child to make mistakes and learn from them as they experience activities their physical competencies. Team sports are a great way to build social skills.
Letting your child choose the organised activities they enjoy most is key to keeping kids active as they get older. At this age, limits on the use of TV and technology at home is also essential!
Teach your teenager that activity is the key to life-long health by encouraging them to find a balance between friends, study and physical activity. Teenagers often benefit from the chance to coach or umpire the sports they’ve played and this added responsibility builds confidence and maturity.