Make Sure Children Exercise Regularly
Brandon does the bunny hop twice and stops. He would rather watch the
other children. Brandon is overweight.
Wendy has high cholesterol. Her provider can't believe that a child as
young as Wendy could have this problem.
Juan never charges around the play yard with the other kids. He says he
would rather watch.
Almost half of American children are not getting enough exercise to
develop healthy hearts and lungs. The American Academy of Pediatrics
recommends more physical education programs at the preschool and primary
level, and they'd like to see families promoting fitness at home.
Most of us believe that preschoolers are always active. Research has
found, however, that children spend very little time exercising
vigorously. Children who are overweight or inactive are the least likely
to participate in vigorous exercise. These children are at special risk.
People who work with young children are usually more concerned about
language development, science projects, and art than with developing large
motor skills. Although providers often urge children to participate in
indoor activities, outside time is often viewed as free play. Providers
are apt to set up the slide or put out the tricycles and then stand by and
watch. They rarely encourage the children to take part in gross motor
activities, even though fitness is vital to good health.
Children imitate adult behavior, and children with active parents are
usually active themselves. Providers can be good role models, too. Get
involved in the activities you plan for them. If children see you running,
jumping, climbing, dancing, and exercising, they will probably join in.
Build an activity plan for large-muscle physical activity, just as you
would for art and science. Here are some ideas.
- Help children do warm-up routines that
include stretching, flexing, and balancing. Make sure the exercises
you select are suitable for small children. Draw attention to their
bodies. Get them to feel their muscles, enjoy their flexibility, and
compare tight muscles with relaxed ones.
- Present exercise in ways that will
interest children. Plan active games, dancing, group exercises, and
- Start with very brief activities so that
overweight or inactive children can succeed.
- Be sure that children participate on the
playground, especially the ones who need it most.
- Plan daily physical activities for
providers and children to do together. Plan to jog or walk around the
block once or twice before going to the playground. Or you could
exercise to music each morning. Start slow and work up to 10 minutes.
- Combine music and movement every day.
Give children the chance to be a jet plane, a galloping horse, or a
- Set up obstacle courses designed for
your age group.
- Require children to take part in gross
motor activities, just as you require them to wash their hands after
using the toilet.
It's hard to break old habits, but you can
help children get into the exercise habit early. This habit will pay off
both now and later for providers, children, and their families.
Reprinted with permission from the
National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Carlson, G. (1994). Make sure
children exercise. In Todd, C.M. (Ed.), *Family child care connections*,
4(3), pp. 6-7. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative