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The Foundation for a Healthy Lifestyle: Tips for Getting Your Family Active

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children should participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. Unfortunately, many children are not nearly as active as they should be. The rate of childhood obesity has tripled over the last 30 years due to a combination of poor diet and physical inactivity.

Research shows that children who develop basic physical skills, such as throwing, catching, kicking, jumping, skipping and balancing are more likely to grow into healthy active adults. Daily physical activity may also help children academically by increasing attention span and improving cognitive processing. Children who are active every day consistently perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are inactive. Learning basic physical skills is essential to the healthy growth and development of your child.

Dr. Stephen Sanders, author, professor and director of the School of Physical Education and Exercise Science at the University of South Florida, is a member of the Primrose Schools Education Advisory Board. “Children do not necessarily learn physical skills on their own; they need guidance from adults, challenging activities and opportunities to practice and refine physical skills,” says Dr. Sanders. “The amount of time children spend daily in physical activity is decreasing, and it will take a determined effort from parents to reverse this trend.”

So, what can you do to teach your children about the importance of being physically active and encourage them to practice these necessary skills? Use the tips below to help your family create a fun, active and healthy environment.

Find appropriate, safe spaces for quality physical activity. Provide safe spaces inside and outside for your child to be active.
• If the physical activity is especially taxing, make sure to show your little one how to warm up beforehand and cool down afterwards. Warm ups and cool downs only need to be about five minutes, and can be simple stretching, but it’s a great habit to start early when introducing exercise to children.
• Anticipate any negative behaviors that might occur during an activity (throwing the ball at another child’s face, play-fighting with hockey sticks, etc.) and address these issues beforehand.

Ensure the availability of age-appropriate supplies. Being physically active is like learning to read, write or do math problems in that each requires proper materials or equipment.
• For infants, find supplies that encourage the development of large and fine motor skills. For fine motor skills like pinching and grasping, look for soft blocks, rattles and nesting cups. Toddlers may use shape sorters, puzzles and nesting toys to develop their fine motor skills.  
• Art activities like painting (with non-toxic paint) and other sensory experiences may also promote the development of fine and large motor skills for infants and toddlers.
• Regardless of your child’s age, be sure the equipment is soft, lightweight and age-appropriate. Watch how your children naturally play with the equipment and feel free to change the game so that it’s conducive to your child’s enjoyment of exercise.

Be active with your children. Don’t just send your children outside to play – be a role model! Go outside with them and participate in games and other activities that require physical exertion.
• Use sidewalk chalk to create your own four-square or hopscotch grid.
• Blow bubbles then chase them around the yard to see who can catch them.
• Play music and dance.
• Weather permitting, run through the sprinklers.

Promote a feeling of success when you play with your child. Skills are acquired incrementally and children who do not experience success have a tendency to quit trying. Try to create some easy victories for your children to keep them interested.
• If your child is not yet able to successfully throw and hit a target, encourage him to move a little closer so he will be successful.
• Acknowledge your child’s efforts with specific comments. No matter what her skill level, be a supportive coach. She will benefit from your encouragement.

When children come into the world, physical activity is at the very center of their lives. They are on a mission to learn to crawl, walk, run, throw, catch and kick. If they are going to enjoy participating in physical activities now and as adults, they need to build upon that foundation of success and enjoyment that begins in infancy. So, grab a ball, badminton racket or jump rope and set aside time each day to play with your child!

To learn more about Primrose School of Five Forks, visit our school campus at 3030 River Drive in Lawrenceville, www.PrimroseFiveForks.com or call 770.985.0028.
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