By Jane Kilkenny
Early childhood development is a crucial time in our lives as parents. Understandably we want what is best for our kids. But we can often be confused by the myriad of information that is available, some of which is based on opinion rather than facts. One thing that we can focus on is giving our kids the opportunity to develop healthy activity and food habits from a very young age.
In those early years the circle of influence for children centres on the home, family and friends. Encouraging children to be active every day is an important habit to develop. Even in the chilly winter months kids will happily head outdoors, all rugged up, for a play in the park. So it’s up to us – let’s encourage and embrace this concept. There are so many options to keep kids warm, puffer jackets, beanies, gloves, mittens and the wonderous footwear of gumboots! These are not just practical options but also highly fashionable.
Winter play also provides great opportunities to explore our outdoor wonderlands with family and friends. Take the opportunity to meet at a park, go for a walk or bike ride, and then enjoy a cosy hot chocolate afterwards. Even a walk on the beach in winter can be a fun and exhilarating experience for kids. Our snowfields are another fantasy playground for kids where they can build a snowman, make snowballs, and go tobogganing with hours of endless fun!
Family fun activities for kids should be a priority for all parents. Health data indicates that only 1 in 4 Australian children are meeting the recommended activity levels for their age groups. These are alarming numbers for us all.
As parents we can ensure that we are doing the best for our kids by establishing healthy habits for life. Lead by example, kids are great at following in our footsteps, particularly when it’s fun. Kids are spending way too much time on screens and this is detrimental to their development and long term health.
Outdoor activities also provide a great opportunity for learning through games and activities. It provides stimulation for all the senses combining a multitude of experiences in physical, emotional and neurological development.
In the early years we need to focus on activities and play, and as kid’s progress we can move towards sports, competition and training. At what age should we consider this transition? That will be entirely dependent on the individual family scenario and the development of each child.
The most important message here is be active with your children from the very beginning. Experience outdoor activities, provide challenges, and be active every day. Those early years before starting school are the prime time for establishing activity patterns. Give your child the gift of healthy habits, it provides a lifelong reward.
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