Everyone knows that exercise is essential. Paired with good nutrition, you have the two main ingredients for a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight. But, at what age do parents start thinking about getting their kids active? The answer may be surprising.
Kids should be active. Naturally, once they get moving they never really stop until they sleep. Exercise isn’t really an issue for the first year or so of a baby’s life. However, once that baby becomes a toddler, he or she may fall behind the learning curve of physical activity.
Parents must be active participants in their toddler’s physical fitness. It sounds bizarre, but toddlers should be motivated to freely walk, run, swing, tumble, and dance. Engaging in meaningful activity is imperative to physical development, and parents must be the best encouragers.
When children reach the ages of four and five, they should be doing all of the above on a daily basis. At this point, structured games should be introduced and friends and family must make it a priority to be involved. Playing ball, tag, or even jumping rope are excellent sources of exercise for this age group.
Elementary school is when children are introduced to the formal class of PE (Physical Education). As a child’s natural competitive nature matures, games should be implemented to support and promote a healthy challenge. Simple games that teach teamwork and team building are a perfect match for this age group. Examples of this are team sports like basketball, football, soccer, baseball, tennis, and volleyball. Independent activities can include biking, skating, or rollerblading.
Middle school and high school children have physical needs greater than younger age groups because their maturing bodies should crave greater activities and more challenges. At this point, physical fitness should be paired with games that require mental toughness. Physically intense games that require strategy create a whole new realm in the physical activity world, and should include more competitive and rigorous sports.
Although competitive sports is what most think of when considering exercise, it is quite evident that physical fitness begins when children are young. Parents need to be creative in how they approach and introduce this subject, and must be a part of the process to make it more enjoyable. Families should choose carefully when considering exercise for young children because those early years will create a defining attitude toward exercise for a lifetime.