ActiveVoice: Play young and move for life
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
The Ministry of Health (in collaboration with Sport NZ and the Health Promotion Agency) released their new Active Play Guidelines for Under Fives last month.
The guidelines form part of the ‘broad approaches to make healthier choices easier for all New Zealanders’ under the Childhood Obesity Plan (Ministry of Health 2015a). They recommend that under-fives sit less, move more and sleep well.
The guidelines state that evidence proves that short and long-term health and wellbeing is improved with regular physical activity, limited time spent sitting for prolonged periods (either in front of a screen or just sitting) and an adequate amount of good quality sleep.
Toddlers and pre-schoolers should have at least three hours of movement every day, spread throughout the day. Play is an important way for children to grow physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually.
Provide many opportunities for active play, both by themselves (this helps to develop imagination skills) and with others, such as caregivers, friends and siblings.
Provide activity that develops basic movement competence and confidence, such as balancing, manipulation and locomotion skills. Walking on uneven surfaces or balancing on narrow planks, moving to music, throwing and catching balls are some ways to improve these skills.
Try to include a variety of indoor and outdoor activities, especially activities involving nature. Try building sandcastles, flying a kite, searching for bugs, or making a stick or shell trail.
Play also helps to build resilience and creativity skills. Playing in the rain or splashing in the mud are ways to build resilience.
The under-fives is a great age group to introduce the concept of THREES:
T: Tools (such as hammers and nails or gardening tools)
H: Heights (such as climbing trees and objects in playgrounds)
R: Rough and Tumble (such as play fighting)
E: Exploration (independent where they can find their own path and hiding places)
E: Elements (natural elements such as mud, water and sand)
S: Speed (such as go-karts, bikes and slides)
All young children should be encouraged to break up long periods of sitting, as this will help with improved health outcomes. Provide tummy time on a safe surface. Break up long car journeys with regular stops every hour, and encourage toddlers and pre-schoolers to walk instead of being in a pushchair. Discourage screen time for under twos and limit screen time to less than one hour a day for children aged two years and older.
Good quality sleep is important as studies show that children who have the recommended amount of sleep have lower risk of obesity, better academic learning, and better emotional and social functioning. No TVs in the bedroom, regular routines, dark and quiet rooms, and calm and consistent bed times are some ways to promote good sleep patterns.
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