Physical fitness has a great impact on the developmental growth of children. Physical activity is important for children’s health and well-being for many reasons. Keeping preschoolers active for at least 1-2 hours daily can help increase and strengthen muscles and bones, strengthen the cardiovascular system, and lessen the risk of obesity. Physical activity can also “help children build endurance, flexibility, and strength” (Robertson, 2013).
There are many skills that children are working on that physical activities can help them master. One skill is locomotor skills, or “moving the body from one point to another” (Goodway, Robinson, 2006). Children need to be taught how to skip, run, jump, or even hop. Another skill that physical activity can help children master is manipulative skills. By throwing, catching, and even kicking a ball or object children can master critical manipulative skills. Physical activity can also help children master social skills such as teamwork, taking turns and respect.
Allowing children the time for these activities and spending time on setting reasonable fitness goals can help encourage healthy activity and prevent obesity. It is not enough to focus on diet alone when it comes to obesity. Choosing “healthy physical activity as well as foods” (Robertson, 2013) can help children in creating a better sense of self. The impact of not engaging in healthy fitness activities can be devastating. Not only can it affect a child’s weight, but it can also affect their self-esteem. If children are not being challenged enough they can become sedentary and may not feel as confident in their skills.
There are many ways in which adults can help children develop good fitness habits. One way to encourage this is by combining music with movement. A simple move such as adding scarves to a dance area can help children “learn to control their bodies, helps them learn to coordinate their movements, and encourages them to be creative and to move safely” (Robertson, 2013). Dancing with scarves can be enjoyable for both the child and the adult. Try using the scarves to create shapes in the air, practice opposites (fast/slow, up/down), and so much more.
Bean bag tosses can be helpful to work on manipulative skills. Depending on the developmental level of the preschooler, bean bag tosses can vary in skill level. They can be as simple as tossing bean bags into a basket from various distances, or as complicated as trying to toss to a specific target. Literacy and mathematical skills can be added for extra learning, as well. Patterning with beads on string or pipe cleaners is a way to add mathematical skills and work on fine motor skills, as well.
Physical activity can have an incredibly positive impact on children’s health and well-being. What they learn can guide their future activity and health. A quote which stuck with me through my research on children’s physical fitness is “All it takes to encourage an active start is a little time and imagination and a commitment to a healthy lifestyle” (Robertson, 2013). Physical activity and fitness goals do not need to be difficult to make a difference, they can be easy and fun. Getting the children involved and having fun is the most important part.
Goodway, J. D., Robinson, L. E. (2006, March). SKIPing toward an active start: Promoting physical activity in preschoolers. Beyond the Journal: Young Children on the Web. Retrieved on January 2, 2016 from http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200605/GoodwayBTJ.pdf
Robertson, C. (2013). Safety, Nutrition and Health in Early Education (5th edition). Belmont,
CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning