Fitness for kids under 6
Meredith Jenkins is a child life assistant, Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.
Question: There are a lot of opportunities for my older kids to get involved in organized fitness activities are everywhere. But what about my younger children, like six years and under?
Answer: As a child life assistant and someone who used to own a children’s fitness center, I have found that there are lots of different ways to get kids moving.
The first step is to build their self-esteem. Sometimes sports or even gym classes at school can be competitive. Start with activities that they enjoy and build their confidence. Do they love to dance? Run? Or maybe just play?
Encourage these activities and demonstrate how fun it is to be active. Make sure they are getting an adequate amount of physical play each day. It will promote a lifelong commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
As your young kids move and play each day, try to focus on specific goals. Maybe one trip to the playground could focus on climbing, using park equipment or a jungle gym.
Another visit could be about strengthening their grip on the monkey bars (with appropriate supervision of course!). Bring a ball - it can get kids running, kicking and throwing all at the same time.
You can also involve physical play with music or everyday objects. Try making up simple dance motions to children's songs and encourage your child to follow along. Or blow up a balloon and see how long they can keep it in the air and off the ground.
Tie a jump rope to something and make your child go over and under it, in all different ways. Children’s gym equipment can be very useful, but you can keep it simple by using the things that are already at your fingertips.
Lastly, one key imperative is to limit screen time. As a parent I know there are numerous ways to entertain children with TV shows, movies and video games, but it can be dangerous when kids start spending hours in front of a TV or video game. Encourage play dates with friends and activities that will get them outside and active. It's so much fun to play!
Reviewed November 2010