Active children

Remember you are the most important role model in your child’s life. By being active with your child you can encourage their lifelong enjoyment of physical activity – and benefit your own health at the same time.

When you can, involve the entire family – try walking to the park, a visit to the zoo for a special treat, or playing soccer in the backyard. Being outdoors is best – just make sure kids have sun protection, such as sunscreen, hats and shade. If the weather is bad, head indoors and build cubby houses or play hide and seek.  

Choose ‘active’ toys. This includes boxes, balls, bats, tricycles, kites streamers, bubbles, hoops and toys that encourage climbing, running, jumping, throwing, catching and moving around. Play materials shouldn’t be expensive and can be found around the house.  If you are a preschool or school, make sure to include daily physical activities into your school's curriculum. A Kinderkineticist can be of great help to introduce movement (according to well-researched principles) to your little ones.    

If your environment does not allow for kids to be active, arrange with your local church or school to make use of their playground or sporting facilities over the weekend. You can also help to launch the same initiative as in England where they are taking back the streets - for the children to play in! Streets are once again coming alive with scooting and cycling and hopscotch and chalk. The new “play streets�? are designated by councils following requests from residents. It is estimated there are now more than 80 designated play streets in England and Wales.  

However, don't wait for your local authorities. Begin talking to your neighbours and organise a car-free zone in your street for certain hours of the day. This will allow children to be more out on the street - playing soccer and riding their bicycles without the fear of being hit by a car.

Talking about cars: remember to take breaks on long car trips. Stop at a park or rest area. Also give kids a break from the stroller and let them walk for some of the journey. Try walking, pedalling or using a scooter for short trips during the day.

Last but not least: TV, DVDs and computer games may be popular with kids, but they usually involve sitting for long periods of time. This is causing children to lose out on the very benefits of being active. Regardless of how active kids may be, it is still important to limit screen time. The American Academy of Paediatrics has provided guidelines when it comes to screen time. For children 2 to 5 years of age, sitting and watching television or using other electronic media (DVDs, computer and other electronic games) should be limited to less than one hour per day. Children younger than 2 years of age should not spend any time watching television or using other electronic media (DVDs, computer and other electronic games).

You might also want to read about the link between movement and the brain.