5 Things Every Parent Should Know About Physical Activity
They take off the moment we round the corner. In front of us a mountain of white sand reaches towards the perfect blue sky, but my kids know they will find the ocean on the other side. We can smell the salt and hear the soft lapping of the gentle waves on the shore.
My twins bound up the hill with strength and energy that I envy. Soon they are little dots of blue and orange nearing the blue sky and I hurry behind with my heavy bag of beach toys and towels.
Ahead of me is a day of beach. A day of sunshine and sand and loads of physical activity. As much fun as this is, I know it is not just fun. It is important.
Whether we have truly accepted it or not, I think we all know that fresh air and physical activity are good for us.
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Don't you just feel better when you are outside in the sun?
It's hard to explain really, but we know we need fresh air. We know we need to move. We know that we feel better when we do.
And yet we fight what we know.
We sit inside behind desks all day and ask our kids to do the same.
We spend evenings vegging on the sofa and only moderately care when our kids do the same.
We drive our cars everywhere and get annoyed that our kids are antsy.
Research has raged for decades about the importance of gross motor activity for all of us, but especially our kids. Daily physical activity was the recommendation long before the lovely Michelle Obama started her campaign.
When you are planning your activities and curriculum, physical activity should be a huge part of the play.
We know this, but we are not convinced.
If we were convinced we would get outside with our kids every day.
If we were convinced we would play fun movement games.
If we were convinced we would shout at schools and governments to increase recess time not eliminate it.
Since we are not convinced...
In 2011, a researcher at Harvard named Dr. John Ratey found that when younger kids had access to physical activity, they made more cognitive gains than kids who sat more. Neuroscientists have actually found that physical activity increases levels of the major synaptic plasticity growth in our brains. In other words, running and jumping helps our brains build connections.
Therefore, when schools cut recess or gym time to increase classroom learning time to improve test scores, they are actually ensuring that kids will do worse and learn less.
So as parents we need to make sure our kids have time and space to move.
We see fun and we think gosh, we need to stop the silliness so we can learn something. In reality, kids (and adults) learn better when it is fun.
We learn better when we are excited, motivated, and enjoying ourselves.
So as parents we need to find fun and diverse ways to incorporate movement for our individual children.
Anyone who has read a board book 105,689 times to a toddler shouldn't be surprised by this one.
We need repetition to learn to read.
We need repetition to learn to count.
We need repetition to build motor skills.
Children need multiple opportunities throughout the day and week and month and year to practice all areas of development, including motor.
So as parents we need to encourage them to ride that balance bike or cross those monkey bars 105,689 more times.
Children need instruction in gross motor skills and time to play freely.
Children need to move inside and outside.
Children need more time to move, not less.
So as parents, we need to make sure our schools follow the nationally recommended guidelines for daily recess.
The brain develops and changes more in the first five years than the rest of a person's life and stimulation is key for this development. After preschool and before adolescence we lose an average 20 billion synaspses in our brain per day as we work to streamline our processing.
This means that the knowledge and connections in our minds that we aren't using - the ability to learn languages we don't speak or areas that we don't use - start to disappear. This isn't always a bad thing. This process exists to help speed up our thinking, however if this pruning happens to areas that we do need we just haven't had the opportunity to use then there is a problem.
Our brains need experiences, multiple opportunities, and social engagement to create and strengthen connections. It is not an accident that our first words develop right around the time of our first steps.
Here's the key: this brain development is activity dependent.
So as parents, we need to make movement and physical activity a priority.
These are helpful articles and websites that address the need for physical activity in childhood.
The Crucial Role of Recess in School from Pediatrics
The Power of Movement from zerotothree.org
National PE Standards from NASPE
Run, Jump, Learn! Dr Ratey on Ted Talks
Physical Activity and Performance at School article in Arch Pediatrics
Below you can access a FREE printable with 365 Ways to Play. One for every day of the new year. These are simple ways to make little moments every day and even routines and chores more fun.
Obviously we aren't going to spend all day every day gleefully laughing and smiling, but I hope these ideas will help add more fun to your new year.
Subscribe below and I'll send you this FREE printable. Print it out and hang in up somewhere handy for those moments when you need a little inspiration, need help surviving a rainy day, or just want to put a smile back into a crabby day.
The areas in this collection of play ideas include;
*Simple things to add to your playroom or play space
*Quick prep, minimal materials activities
*Short ways to interact playfully with your child
*Fun ways to play on the go
*Subscribe to the Bambini Newsletter (If you're already a subscriber - the printable is on its way to you now)
*Print out the FREE 365 Ways to Play
*Keep it handy for whenever you want play inspiration
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