In a recent article published by Daily Mail, it was revealed that England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies and her counterparts across Britain have issued a guideline that children under 5 should be getting at least 3 hours of exercise (the kind that makes you huff and puff) every day.
While this may seem excessive, take a minute to think about how much time your toddler spends running around naturally. Most toddlers are fairly active, and reminding parents to encourage their children to engage in active play. What gave me pause was that this guideline was put in place to encourage parents to remember that children are supposed to be active. I always encourage parents to take walks, get outside, and play away from electronics to encourage good sleep habits.
I think that as we parents have gotten busier, and our lives are more scheduled, exercise is sometimes the last thing we think about, or the word connotes packed gyms and hours on the treadmill. For your toddler, it’s fairly simple to get enough activity, it just takes thinking outside the box.
I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love to run and play outside. Take your children outside as much as you can. If it’s cold, be sure to bundle them up well, and be aware that extremely low temperatures in the winter aren’t healthy.
Remember playing hot potato? Or putting pillows all over the floor and pretending that it’s covered in lava? Teach your toddler or preschooler these games and play with them. You’ll get some exercise, and have fun.
Have you ever turned on some really great music and just danced around the house? Try it with your kids. They’ll love it, and they don’t care if your best move is the lawnmower. They’ll probably think it’s awesome and copy you.
Help Around the House
You can also encourage your children to help with the daily upkeep of your home. Toddlers can sweep, dust, vacuum, and help fold laundry. Older children can pitch in more. You may not think of these activities as getting you moving, but if you do them with a child’s zeal, you’ll definitely raise your heart rate.
There are so many benefits to daily exercise, both for our children and ourselves; my favorite benefit of daily exercise is better sleep. Children who are active tend to sleep better, and fall asleep faster (remember that it’s totally normal and healthy for a child to take 15-20 minutes to really be asleep). Just make sure that the hour before sleep is calm and quiet. Play a board game, read a good book (or a whole lot of them), and take some time to wind down before bed, especially if you’ve had a very active day.
In the end, everything is about balance. I think that if we make sure that we are encouraging our children to be active as much as possible during the day, we’ll reap the benefits of healthy kids who get quality sleep.