At this time of year, when the days are cold or wet, it can seem as if there are fewer opportunities to get children out and about and moving.
However, it is important that under-fives still maintain the recommended three hours of physical activity a day — roughly a quarter of a child’s waking time.
Here the Infant & Toddler Forum shares some ideas for keeping children active during the darker months.
Keeping toddlers active has many benefits. It allows them to develop movement skills, maintain a healthy weight and a healthy heart.
Physical activity ensures that the strength, endurance and skill of their skeletal muscles develop. It also helps to improve a toddler’s competence and co-ordination skills. Encouraging active play every day and making sure to praise toddlers when they are active will allow them to develop the skills to enjoy sport as they get older. This could encourage healthy habits that last into adulthood.
On a day-to-day basis, keeping little ones active can also help to break up periods of learning. It can help ensure that children do not get restless, which can happen after they have spent long periods of time staying still. If toddlers optimise their physical ability and co-ordination, they will learn to enjoy games and sport and may choose to continue playing them at school.
Despite the weather often being poor at this time of year, there are still plenty of opportunities for achieving these three active hours.
Splashing and puddles
Toddlers love puddles and can have plenty of fun outdoors if dressed in waterproofs and suitable boots. Indoor swimming pools and soft play areas can also keep toddlers happy no matter what the weather.
It may be easier to make up these hours of activity with short episodes, interspersed with rest.
This is not a problem – the three hours of activity can be made up of periods as long or as short as needed and spread out over the day. Activities can also be either light intensity or more energetic. It is the length of time that a toddler is active that is more important than the type or intensity of the activity. Any active play inside or outside counts towards the three hours.
Ideas for indoor play
If it’s not possible to get outside, there are plenty of activities which can help little ones moving indoors. Why not try playing ‘keep it up’ with a balloon? Or playing catch with a bean bag?
More activity ideas:
- have a dance-a-thon
- play an indoor treasure hunt
- play musical statues
- play hide and seek
- read stories and sing songs that require actions in time with the words
- dance or jump to music
- make a den.
Physical activity for toddlers should always take place in a safe environment and be supervised at all times.
Visit the Infant and Toddler Forum website for more tips on keeping toddlers active.