What we first think of when we talk about child development is usually the mental and the emotional aspects of a child as she grows and matures. What we sometimes fail to realize is the fact that a child’s development also hinges on her all-important physical progress.
Still developing physically, a child needs a good amount of physical activities to grow into a physically well-balanced person later. Aside from its built-in natural advantages, a well-balanced physical development has its own list of benefits.
Like in most persons, physical activity burns away calories in children and makes them achieve an ideal weight (as against being fat or obese). The sugar levels in the blood are kept in balance and this benefits the kids with diabetes or those with risks for the disease.
With burned calories, blood pressure and cholesterol levels are lowered. With physical activity, children develop strength and endurance. Overall, it improves sleep and mental growth in young developing bodies.
At age 6, children already need around an hour (60 minutes) of daily physical activity. These activities need not be done in one go but can be staggered during the day in short bursts.
Like adults, kids also need 3 types of regular exercises: aerobics, strengthening of the muscles, and strengthening of the bones. These can be incorporated within the daily 60-minute physical activity.
The aerobics (or cardio) makes the heart and lungs work. These include activities like running on a treadmill, dancing, skateboarding, basketball, swimming and biking, among others.
Activities for strengthening of the muscles (for building and maintaining muscles) include gymnastics, climbing, pushups, sit-ups, and pull-ups in bars. The exercises for strengthening the bones (making it grow and become strong) include jumping rope, skipping, running, and playing such sports as basketball, volleyball, or tennis.
Preschoolers can develop their motor skills in such simple activities as ball-throwing, doing obstacle courses, tag-playing, hopping around, riding training bikes, kicking ball or plain dancing around. Organized sports are not yet recommended because of the complex rules and their short attention span.
Parents of school age children need to look for sport and non-sport activities that they will fit in and enjoy and can be successful at them. These activities may include sports as basketball and baseball, some martial arts, hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities with physical mobility.
For teenagers, there are various choices for them to become active. With their almost-developed mental and physical makeup, they can do any school sports, skateboarding and just about any other physical activities that can challenge both their mental and physical skills.
To succeed in implementing physical activity with the kids, parents would also need to be successful in enforcing limited screen time for all age groups. Screen time here is the general activity of watching TV, DVDs, videos, playing computer games and Internet surfing.
Limited screen time can be an hour or two, based on the premise that these activities are usually done sitting still. The idea is that the activity is in complete contrast to being physically active. As parents, you can also help keep promote the values you want by being physical role models yourselves.