Kids + Movement = Health + Happiness
As a mom of three, health enhancement teacher to over a hundred students and fitness professional, I think it’s safe for me to say that kids need to move – EVERY DAY. Whatever your role in a child’s life, you’ve no doubt experienced that incessant energy all kids come equipped with.
We’ve all reached that point where it’s just easier, and often necessary, to just turn them loose into the playroom, backyard, playground, park or any other space available where they can run, move and burn off some stink (as we like to call it). Aside from allowing us to keep our sanity and our kids to be healthy, there are several, perhaps more important, reasons why kids need to move and play every single day.
Play helps foster a productive environment for the building of strong bodies. Childhood is a critical period of growth and development for the body, especially bones, muscles and connective tissue. Kids grow at a rapid rate — giving them ample time for play and physical activity ensures their little bodies will be growing into robust examples of health.
Regular play and physical activity is not only crucial for physical development, but cognitive as well. An article in Educational Psychology Review notes exercise promotes a child’s executive function, which is “the processes required to select, organize, and properly initiate goal-directed actions.”
In a nutshell, the neurological changes and adaptations that take place during physical activity carry over into the child’s intellectual abilities. Many teachers, including yours truly, believe physically active children are better able to learn and behave in the classroom compared to their sedentary counterparts.
As with adults, regular and adequate physical activity is an effective way to improve sleep in children. If kids are given an opportunity to expend all that energy during the day, they’ll be more subdued and ready for bed in the evenings. Plenty of play time will help your child to fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly than if she spends most of her day in sedentary endeavors.
Unstructured, active play provides an ideal environment for kids to develop social skills. Whether they’re playing with you, their siblings or other kids, they must learn to make decisions, follow the rules of their games, and resolve conflicts amongst one another. As kids acquire these skills, they learn to work together and compromise with their playmates as well as with others they come into contact with.
An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Pediatrics notes, “This process can cultivate a range of social and emotional capabilities such as empathy, flexibility, self-awareness, and self-regulation,” which will transfer to other activities and situations throughout their childhood and into adolescents and adulthood.
Builds creativity and self-reliance
Playing, especially outdoors, puts kids in situations where they have the opportunity to make decisions, allowing them to use their problem-solving skills and creativity. Anytime a child is in an unstructured environment, they are able to rely more upon their own ingenuity. Play fosters your child’s ability to be self-reliant and not dependent on you or other adults to solve his problems for him.
Allows kids to be kids
Kids are under an enormous amount of pressure these days – they’re expected to be the best and their little schedules are so packed they barely have time to think. There’s plenty of time for your child to be busy and stressed when he’s an adult. For now he’s a kid and he should be allowed to act like one. Why rush growing up? Give your kid plenty of free time to play and run amuck like kids are meant to do.
Just as it’s imperative for adults to move every day, kids need and deserve to have time to test their bodies and minds with movement. Make sure to joint them outside every once in awhile to let your inner kid have some fun too.
Jen Weir is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Functional Training Specialist, and Certified Personal Trainer with Teacup Wellness.
Photo used with permission from 123rf.com.