Topic READING Material:
The world of young children is a world of movement. It should not be difficult to get young children moving. Appeal to their imagination and they are on the move. Movement and a balanced diet are vital to the fitness of young children. The combination of the two should provide the average preschool child with a recipe for fitness.
The problem for young children is a lack of fitness. This is, perhaps, more of a lifestyle issue than a nutritional issue. Young children are subject to the lifestyle habits of their parents. Children have little or no control over what they are given to eat or the time they spend in play. These factors are controlled by parents who often lead extremely busy lives. Single parent families, two working parents, and children in care outside of the home for the majority of the day are common lifestyle environments for young children. Because parents are so busy, they often make lifestyle choices on the basis of convenience rather than nutrition. Since parents and children often do not get home until dinner time or later, parents opt for movies, video games, or other sources of entertainment for their children rather than active movement. According to kidshealth.org (2010), the percentage of overweight children and teens has doubled in the last 30 years. This is due to the fact that children are more sedentary than in previous decades. The botXXXXX XXXXXne is that children are sitting more and moving less. Kidshealth.org quotes the Kaiser Foundation in saying that children spend an average of three hours watching TV every day and spend about five and one-half hours each day in "screen" activities such as computers, video games, DVDs, and computer time outside of school work.
The only solution to the sedentary problem is to limit screen time for children of all ages and especially for young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children two years old and younger should not watch television. AAP also recommends that children age two and older should be limited to no more than one to two hours of quality television programming per day (aap.org, 2010). Parents may fail to recognize a television on in the background of the home for many hours per day, while their children absorb whatever is shown on the screen.
Obviously, the solution is to get children moving. Beginning in infancy, children need to be moving and their movement should continue throughout their lives and through adulthood. It is important that children begin movement early in life so that it becomes a part of their lifestyle choices. Children who learn movement early in life tend to continue movement activities into adulthood.
Adults think about fitness as exercise and working out at the gym. This is not the case for young children. Fitness and movement for young children simply translates into everyday play and activity. By nature, young children want to move. Young children should not be engaged in sedentary activity for over an hour. This speaks to how we structure our school days. With children in school for six hours per day, they are often expected to sit still for a great deal of that time. Frequent bathroom breaks, moving from one area of the classroom to another, and getting up to pass out papers or get a drink all help break the lack of movement in the school classroom.
Appropriate Movement for Young Children
Kidshealth.org lists three elements of fitness for children:
· Endurance is developed through aerobic activity, which is any activity that causes the heart to beat faster and the person to breathe harder for a period of time.
· Strength is developed in weight-bearing activities, such as when children climb or master crossing the monkey bars.
· Flexibility is developed when children are engaged in stretching activities, such as when children use a full range of motion by reaching for objects or doing a cartwheel (kidshealth.org, 2010).
How much is enough exercise? Kidshealth.org (2010) recommends 60 minutes per day for all children age two and over. Keep in mind that this is not a workout as adults think of exercise. This is normal children's play. For children younger than age two, movement should simply encourage motor development.
For young children, appropriate activity means play. The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance Web site offers specific activities by grade level, including the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) national guidelines for developmentally appropriate movement standards and activities (Appropriate Instructional Practice Guidelines, 2010).
The Benefits of Physical Activity
The benefits of physical activity and movement for young children are numerous:
· Development of eye-hand coordination and depth perception;
· Improvement of physical and mental health;
· Fun for the child and the joy of movement;
· Learning about where and how the body moves;
· Learning about the relationship of the body to what is around it;
· Providing the child with a sense of control; and
· The ability to navigate the body through space (aap.org, 2010).
Combining a nutritional diet with movement and activity are the keys to a healthy lifestyle. Raising healthy and fit children is possible when parents and teachers encourage children to participate in age-appropriate activities; establish regular times for movement and activity; choose movement over sedentary activities; and provide a model of healthy choices and a healthy lifestyle for children. Most of all, parents and teachers need to keep movement and activity natural and fun for children so that they will find enjoyment in the activities.
Appropriate instructional practice guidelines. (2010). Retrieved August 14, 2010, from http://www.aahperd.org/naspe/standards/nationalGuidelines/Apppracticedoc.cfm
American Academy of Pediatrics. (n.d.). aap.org
The Nemours Foundation. (2010). KidsHealth: Kids and exercise. Retrieved August 14, 2010, from http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_fit/fitness/exercise.html
1. Optional: Body Fatness and Physical Activity Levels of Young Children
For additional information, the following is recommended: "Body Fatness and Physical Activity Levels of Young Children," by Al-Nakeeb, Duncan, Lyons, and Woodfield, from Annals of Human Biology (2007).
2. Optional: Directly Observed Physical Activity Levels in Young Children
For additional information, the following is recommended: "Directly Observed Physical Activity Levels in Preschool Children," by Pate, McIver, Dowda, Brown, and Addy, from Journal of School Health (2008).
3. Optional: Physical Activity Measurement Methods for Young Children: A Comparative Study
For additional information, the following is recommended: "Physical Activity Measurement Methods for Young Children: A Comparative Study," by Hands and Larkin, from Measurement in Physical Education & Exercise Science (2006).
4. Optional: Prescribing Practices: Shaping Healthy Children in Schools
For additional information, the following is recommended: "Prescribing Practices: Shaping Healthy Children in Schools," by Burrows and Wright, from International Journal of Children's Rights (2007).
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