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Professor Louise Baur, Director of Weight Management Services at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, says that the over-use of strollers can affect kids’ health.“I know we need to move kids around efficiently, but the downside is that it’s encouraging them to be passive and programming them to sit from an early age,” she said.
“When a lot of time is spent in a stroller there’s less time for preschoolers to spend moving around, and the movements children do in the early years – like toddling, walking and getting up and down steps – are important for a whole range of skills like balance, co-ordination and developing motor skills.”
The benefits of getting your child out of the stroller and moving;
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Better developed movement and coordination skills
- Healthy weight
- Improved bone health
- Better supported learning of appropriate social skills
Why walking more often is good for your toddler
Children’s cardiovascular endurance and motor skill development are particularly important when they are young. If you really want your child to grow up to be healthy and confident, daily exercise through play and exploration of the environment is essential. It helps support your child’s muscle strength, control, social engagement, and fine and gross motor skills… all things kids need to be successful in life.
How much active walking and play should toddlers enjoy each day?
Per day, it is recommended that children who can walk independently should be engaged in three hours of physical movement. It doesn’t matter whether this movement happens indoors or outdoors, but it is important that it happens consistently, especially for children under the age of five.
This is because the bone mass your child attains during childhood and adolescence helps determine their lifelong skeletal health.
Just like bones, muscle strength builds over time…. the more activity your child enjoys, the more muscle strength and the greater stability your child’s young body has.
If you provide activity for your child now, he or she has a better chance of entering adulthood (and even old age) with a healthier body that will stand (pardon the pun!) the test of time
Which activities are best?
Weight bearing activities are usually the best ones for kids to get involved in. So find out what your children enjoy and get them walking,running and jumping. As they get older, individual and team sports like netball, soccer and dancing are all great options.
We know…toddlers are slow!!
Although, walking to and from places with children can be slow (toddlers want to stop and look at everything in their path!) experts tell us that patiently supporting your child’s active participation in their surroundings will help them to explore the environment and develop other important skills like language and problem-solving.
Remember, the activity and fun doesn’t begin once you arrive at your destination, it starts from the moment you leave your home.
What might not be interesting for you as an adult can be a fantastic learning opportunity for your child. So encourage your child to smell the flowers, touch and feel different ground coverings, including bark, concrete and sand, identify the colours in traffic lights and count the people boarding buses.
When you take the extra time to get your child out of their stroller and actively engaging them in walking and talking, you are helping them to be healthy.
Simple ideas for getting more active walking into your toddler’s day;
Today, more than ever before, our kids need to be taught how to spend more time moving and less time sitting still. So allow some extra time in your day and walk with your child as you complete your daily jobs.
- Park a few blocks away from preschool and walk together
- Alternate walking with having a piggy back, or scooter ride
- Encourage them to push the stroller instead of riding in it
- Allow your children to practice climbing the stairs (rather than always carrying them up)
When you allow this activity to become a regular routine, you will give your kids a life-long live for physical activity.
In this way, your active, strong and curious toddler has a much better chance of developing into a healthy, active and energetic child and adult!!
More resources for parents
Brochure: Move and play everyday
Paediatric Occupational Therapist
© 2014 Kids First Children’s Services
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