Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Guest Blogger:  Manish Vakil

Playtime: How Your Child’s Activity Improves Development

Physical activity offers a waterfall of benefits, both for our bodies and our minds. But today, people are becoming more and more immobile — that goes for adults as well as children.

There’s good news, though: We’re beginning to recognize that this immobility (and its consequences) are an issue.

All sorts of programs are popping up, initiatives aimed at getting our children moving and combating obesity:
The American Heart Association and the National Football League have partnered on the Play 60 Challenge, which encourages young people to engage in physical activity at least an hour a day.

In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama founded the Let’s Move! program, which is fighting against the rise of childhood obesity — an epidemic whose rates have tripled in the past 30 years. 

The United States Center for Disease Control is sharing the stories of young people who have successfully improved their diets, increased exercise and lost weight.

These programs are a fantastic step in the right direction. But how early is too early for your young child to get active?

It’s Never Too Soon To Be Active

Older children join soccer teams and other organized activities. But your child needs to be active, even if he or she is too young to participate in sports.

A study of the relationship between physical activity and comprehensive health in early childhood indicates the benefits of physical activity are sweeping, even for children between 0 and 4 years old. They enjoy enhanced and accelerated:
  • Motor Skills: Active children under the age of 4 have shown advanced skills related to body control, grasping, balance and hand-eye coordination.
  • Social Skills: Preschool students who participate in dance and similar activities show gains in “social competence and externalizing behavior,” and their teachers describe them as “more outgoing and less socially withdrawn.”
  • Cognitive Skills: Physical activity even in the first year of life has been shown to increase language development and early communication, including “facial expression, sounds, vocalizations and babble.”

And, of course, there are known health benefits to physical activity throughout childhood, including heart health and even cancer prevention.

How to Get Your Young Child Active

A collection of scientific studies shows that young children find physical activity most enjoyable when there’s no competition involved. That’s perfect when your child is too young for organized sports and classes.

So, instead of promoting competition, encourage your child to explore many different physical activities. Always support your child’s active play, and cut loose yourself — let him or her know that you’re having fun, too.

For children through 4 years of age, seek out play environments that are safe but that also allow children to make decisions for themselves and to take reasonable risks. All of this will help your child maximize his or her playtime and help achieve the greatest benefit from physical activity.

Discover an Indoor Play Area Near You

Across the United States, indoor play areas are opening (and thriving) as parents look for spaces where their young children can safely play. These indoor play areas are great when it’s too cold outside, great when it’s too hot outside, and great when you just need a space to let your toddler or young child romp safely and constructively for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Take advantage of these indoor play areas as safe spaces where your young child can unlock the benefits of physical activity: improved motor skills, social skills, cognitive skills and more. And let children explore freely, make their own decisions, and take the safe, measured risks that are so important to development.

Not all indoor play areas are created equal, though. The best have studied how to promote development in young children, and their play areas are actually carefully constructed spaces that include a sort of play curriculum.

What Are You Waiting For?
Parents need to play, too. When you need to unplug and relax, there’s no better place to do so than alongside your child at a local indoor play area. Help your child take important developmental steps and forget about the world for a while when you find one of these safe, active spaces near you.

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