At Kids Kinder we recognise the critical role that play has in promoting physical activity in childcare. To get the best results from play, it is vital to select activities that are age appropriate.
Play time should be broken up into small structured and unstructured chunks throughout the day for both toddlers and preschoolers. Babies should be given “tummy time” two or three times daily. Play should have sufficient variety in it to not become too predictable and should be conducted both indoors and outdoors, weather permitting.
The importance of physical activity in early childhood cannot be overstated. Finding physical activities that engage and stimulate the child should be front of mind. It doesn’t matter what the physical activity is, nor does it matter how good that they are at it, the most important thing is that they actually enjoy the activity. Not all activities are going to be suitable for each individual child, but there will be something across the wide range of physical activities that every child finds rewarding and stimulating. Whether it is waking, jumping, skipping, climbing or involves catching, hitting or bouncing a ball, there will be a physical activity that engages and motivates the child.
From a childcare perspective, it is imperative that a variety of physical activities be provided to cater for all tastes and to keep the child excited and motivated to try new physical activities. Physical activities should vary in intensity and duration. Small chunks of intense activity should be mixed with moderate physical activities. All moderate holistic development activities undertaken as play contribute to the child’s overall health and well-being.
The key to making physical activity enjoyable is to encourage the activity rather than to coach for performance – to express enjoyment in watching the child play rather than expecting that the child succeed or “win.” The encouragement can be provided directly in the form of praise particularly when the child is struggling with a new physical skill, or indirectly by role modelling active behaviour so that the child can see others participating and enjoying the activity.
Physical activity can be further encouraged by organising activities like walking, gardening or even camping. Providing toys that encourage physical play is also a useful stimulus. Having a ready supply of balls, bats, play spades and the like is always handy.
The educator has a vital role in promoting health and well-being in childcare. They can help children to take the opportunity to learn new physical skills and to practice new learned movements while maintaining a positive, enthusiastic and encouraging attitude towards all physical activities. The educator can hone their skills for providing holistic development in childcare by taking the opportunity to enroll in any available courses or make use of any resources that will help them gain a greater understanding of promoting physical activity in early childhood.
It is useful to develop a working relationship with the child’s parents to enable the exchange of ideas and plans to further stimulate the child’s physical development. Being abreast of what physical activity that the child’s family is doing can also help you to structure physical activities around the child’s experience and abilities.
Keeping an open line of communication with the childcare centre enables the parent to reinforce any physical activities in the home environment. The parent can also assist by actively role modelling healthy behaviours and habits to encourage physical activity around the home.
Regular physical activity has tremendous benefits for the young child. Being engaged in regular physical activity through extra programs not only helps with a child’s physical growth and development, it also helps to embed healthy lifestyle habits that can last a lifetime and help in a number of developmental areas.
The major benefits of physical activity are:
Promoting physical activity in childhood should be part of every childcare center’s focus as the benefits of engaging in structured and unstructured play help to generate feelings of self-worth, good social behaviour and better mental health as well as helping the young child’s body to develop physically.