Fitness is fun for kids, vital for development



What should a parent do? And how essential is it to keep your little ones away from screens and move their limbs?

Hear what Tara Thompson, local early childhood expert, has to say.

“Physical activity contributes to optimal brain function,” said Thompson, District 518 early years coordinator since 2000.

“Our bodies learn as a whole, so we need to make sure we incorporate physical activity.

“And physical activity also helps fight obesity, so it’s good to instill healthy lifestyles from an early age.”

Thompson’s career has focused on humans from birth to age 5. His knowledge of what children need, and why, is deep and broad.

And the movement is at the top of its list.

“Young children use their whole body to learn,” she urged. “And what they learn is how their body moves and how they can control those movements.

“It’s a very important element of growth and development, so you need to give them time to explore big [as well as small] motor movements.

Keeping it all fun is also part of parenting play.

“It’s also joyful,” she said. “Laughter and running can be involved, and it’s a good outlet for anxiety and stress.

“With the pandemic, the importance of this outlet is multiplied, but adults are not always good at understanding why children do what they do,” Thompson continued.

“We don’t always think about the fact that children can also be stressed, and that’s another reason to encourage them to be physically active. “

Thompson easily produces a list of creative ways – both inside and out – for exhausted parents and caregivers to help children burn energy and calories while simultaneously strengthening their minds and their body.

Pleasure inside

As Thompson urges caregivers to take their children out into the fresh air, however cold it may be, she knows that is not a 24-hour option in the winter.

“During the colder months, you can’t always be outside for long periods of time,” Thompson said.

His first advice?

Turn on your phone, iPod, radio, cassette player or any other handy streaming mode for music.

“Turn on the music,” Thompson said. “Dance, be silly, have fun.

“Consider adding a scarf or ribbon and encourage your child to move around in the moods created by the music, and express this through different movements with the props. “

Don’t have ice skates? Take out the paper plates.

“Put your feet on cardboard plates and pretend to ‘skate’ in an indoor area – it’s a lot of fun,” Thompson promised.

“Or pretend the floor is lava and you have to go from one side of the room to the other – and you can’t touch the floor because it’s hot lava,” Thompson said.

Throw in pillows, cushions or blankets to create a stepping stone through the “lava,” she suggested.

Likewise, Thompson said making a construction paper path can involve the whole family.

“Jump or jump from one piece of paper to another,” Thompson said. “While you are doing this, have them name the color of the paper they are on, and if they have their colors at the bottom, place dots on the paper and have them count.

“So you can adapt to a progression of learning skills, with written numbers or animals [think: animal sounds]. “

Indoor “snowball” fights with crumpled paper are favorites.

“Maybe create some ‘forts’ to go with it – you’re in this one, I’m in that one – and do a ‘fight’, pick up your bullets, go back to your fort and start over,” said Thompson.

She also mentioned getting a “Really Inexpensive Nerf Ball Hoop” to encourage great motor movement.

And… think outside the box – maybe to the sandbox.

“What kind of small or large engine equipment do you have on the outside that could work inside?” Thompson asked.

“A little slide? A mini trampoline? This year I know of families who brought kids’ bikes inside and chocked the rear wheels so the kids could pedal them without going anywhere.

Or try show jumps, an indoor obstacle course, pencil rolls on the mat, or a “balance beam” made from string or masking tape so kids can practice balancing and balancing. walking heel to toe (or toe to heel).

Work in winter wonderland

It’s a mistake, says Thompson, that winter is bad for children.

“Fresh air is vital for our body,” she said, “and cold air alone not make your child sick.

His ideas for outdoor activities this season fall fast and thick like snowflakes.

“The first ones that come to mind are sledding, skating, snowball battles, building a fort, making snow angels or just going for a walk,” said Thompson.

Rather than viewing summer activities as off limits because the thermometer reads 20 degrees and not 70, Thompson suggests a different state of mind.

“If you typically go to a playground in the summer, bundle up and go to the same playground in the winter,” Thompson urged.

“Children can discover the same place but use it differently depending on the weather conditions.

“It’s a familiar place but with snow on the ground, and it allows you to explore and observe – maybe it’s icicles, or you can say, ‘In the summer we do this, in the winter. we do that, ”so good conversations and comparisons can result. “

Fill a water bottle with colored water, suggests Thompson, and take pictures in the snow.

“Or give your child various items to use for picking up and throwing away – like a plastic laundry detergent spoon that he can wrap with snow and create a wall of cubes,” she said.

“Unplug from screens and enjoy the cool outdoors,” Thompson said.

“It’s important for children to see the adults around them doing these things as well. You can join them sometimes and not at other times, but it’s great for young and old alike.

Snack time surprises

And, as Thompson says, “What could be more fun than coming home from the cold outdoors for a cup of cocoa and a special snack?” “

Involving children in cooking creations is another way to encourage healthy eating.

“Cooking for 3-year-olds doesn’t necessarily mean making an entire meal, but let them take a spoonful of each of the Goldfish crackers, raisins, pretzels, and chocolate chips to make a little snack mix. Thompson noted.

“It’s something they can eat after outdoor play time, it promotes pincer grip and hand-eye coordination, and they develop a sense of pride and joy knowing, ‘Hey, I am. did that. “”

Lifelines for parents

Thompson knows that with young children at home, the days can be long, but the years go by quickly, so it is vital for the adults in children’s lives to try and model behavior that will launch toddlers in. healthy habits.

“The five years from birth to kindergarten go by pretty quickly,” Thompson agreed.

“Think about the things you did when you were young and think about the memories you would like to reproduce for your own children,” said Thompson.

She also warned of the potentially negative effects.

“Parents should always be aware of the screen time their children – and themselves as adults – are recording,” Thompson said.

“A willingness to move away from it and offer other opportunities to explore, learn and develop in different ways is important, because hands-on learning is a concrete way for young children to learn, to explore and make observations. “

When they’re at their wit’s end, parents may try to “sync” children to make tedious tasks – like picking up toys or books – more exciting.

“A lot of kids like it when you say, ‘I’m going to time you; see how fast [or slow] you can do it, ”said Thompson. “It adds a slight competitive advantage to the business.

Above all, getting through the pandemic while keeping children active and healthy is the primary goal.

“Stay alert, continue to be patient – and there is hope,” Thompson said.

“I know it may be difficult for some families to deal with right now, but hope will carry us through.

“Focus on the positives; focus on what you can do and on what is available to you rather than what you can not To do.”

For more information on District 518’s early years programs, call 727-1207.



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