Taking part in physical activity supports healthy growth and development, whilst providing opportunities for children to develop and learn life long skills. Children need to be active everyday to support a healthy lifestyle and development.
It is important that children are offered a range of experiences to develop their physical skills which cover all elements of physical development such as gross and fine motor skills, endurance, coordination, flexibility, strength, body management skills such as balancing, locomotor skills such as running or crawling and object control such as using a bat or ball.
Getting enough exercise
Physical activity should be encouraged from birth; babies should be encouraged to move and be active throughout the day. Non mobile babies can be encouraged to get active through floor based experiences such as spending time on their tummy, reaching and grasping for toys, sitting up and naturally exploring moving their arms, legs and head. For mobile babies, this could include crawling, cruising, walking and reaching and grasping toys.
Children who can walk on their own should be physically active for at least 180 minutes (3 hours) throughout the day. This should be both indoors and outdoors, ensuring children receive a balance of light activities as well as energetic activities.
The benefits of physical activity
Physical experiences encourage children to develop their coordination skills, helping them to control their body movements to perform a task or skill. They support children in being able to use their arms and legs in unison. This is known as bilateral movement. Cross lateral movements are also supported where children are encouraged to cross their midline, for example taking their arm across to the other side of their body.
Children become aware of their bodies in relation to the space around them. Exercise improves a child's overall health and fitness and supports energy levels. Being active contributes to reducing the risk of childhood obesity. As children use their muscles to perform a task or skill, they build by muscle and cardio endurance, allowing them to carry out skills for longer periods of time. As children maintain their attention during physical experiences, their concentration is enhanced which increases productivity and success.
Physical opportunities help children to feel good about themselves and can help to elevate their mood. When we exercise, our bodies release hormones called endorphins; the body's way of helping us feel great!
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