17th November, 2010 - Posted by - 3 Comments
A wise person once said that children are not miniature adults – and that certainly is the case with young children in terms of movement and physical activity.
There are three keys to understanding how young children move:
- They are inefficient movers
- They are intermittent movers
- They tire easily, but recover quickly
Think about how you go up a set of stairs. If you have no impairment, you may take them one or two at a time, but you mount them quickly and use them to get from point A to point B. Now, a very young child might crawl up the stairs, stopping halfway up for a rest or go up on foot, but still need to steady themselves with their hands on the step in front of them. In either scenario, you can easily see how inefficient their movements are (compared to adults).
Children tend to move in bits and starts — running full-on for a few minutes, then crumbling to the ground professing, “I’m dead,” only to bounce up two minutes later and run again.
This, as it turns out, is the key to designing movement activities and designing opportunities for active play. Keep in mind how children move and plan little pockets of active play and movement throughout the day, rather than setting aside 60 minutes and expecting them to be active that entire time.
The National Association of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPE) recommends 120 minutes of physical activity through active play for preschoolers daily (60 minutes structured + 60 minutes unstructured). This recommendation covers a child’s entire day and requires that parents/caregivers and educators work together to help children achieve this healthy benchmark.
Educators can help by incorporating movement across the curriculum and utilizing their outdoor play spaces throughout the day, versus merely 30 minutes in the morning, for example. Research indicates that outdoor play increase the opportunity for moderate to vigorous physical activity.
Parents can help by decreasing the amount of screen time children are exposed to, as well as engaging in activate play throughout the day (during wake-up time, walking to school instead of driving, or preparing a meal). Also, having toys like balls, hula hoops, and jump ropes for children to access will also help promote active play.
What are some of the ways you plan for active play, either in the home setting or at school?
Bethe Almeras, MS, is the HSBS Education & Outreach Director. A long time educator and play advocate, she is passionate about outdoor play and connecting children with nature. In her free time Bethe writes a blog, The Grass Stain Guru, and can often be found playing outside. She is particularly fond of squirrels. And turtles. And sandpipers. And…