Another school holiday is around the corner, which often means relaxing in front of the telly, playing games on consoles/ipad/mobiles/computers and being less physically active. Though children need their holiday breaks from school and homework it is still important to make sure that they are keeping up their daily recommended physical activities of 60 minutes a day.
How will your children be meeting the recommended activity levels of 60 min per day during the dark winter days? It is as important for them to get their physical activities and fresh air during the winter as during the summer. We need to ask ourselves, are we as active as we should be? Or do parents/carers need to be more proactive to get the children out and about during the winter months? What physical activities can be done indoors?
Physical activity doesn’t need to involve organised training sessions or cost a lot of money. The most important things are to get it into a regular routine on a daily basis, have fun and move together. A sedentary lifestyle can easily be turned around if we as adults take more responsibility to find interesting ways of keeping the children physically active. For a child with special needs, who may need help to be able to move or interact socially as well as his/her peers, it can be more difficult to get involved in physical activities. It is then even more important that the adults in their close surroundings get involved to help them find ways to move and interact.
I hope reading this will give you all a few tips and ideas in how to increase each child’s (and adults) activity levels.
Physical activity will help improve everyone’s fitness level, strength, coordination, balance, endurance as well as social development, improving control over symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved appetite and often also has a positive impact on sleep.
Yes, it is cold to go to the playground during the winter, however there is a great way of keeping warm, which is moving 😊 as well as dressing in layers. If the playground environment is too busy for your child, explore other ways to be active and go out and enjoy the lovely nature Ireland has to offer. However, if you are out after the dark, make sure you are all wearing reflecting gear to stay safe!
Start with short periods of physical activities which can be spaced out through the day, it all adds up if we make it regular. Make a physical activity chart with your child that you together can tick off how much physical activity is gained over the day, week, months….. and gradually build up to be getting at least 60 min per day. Below are some general ideas about how to get started, then you will adapt and find your own activities that suits the child/children and your family life, involve everyone in making the plans as then it is more likely to be a joint happy result.
Walk to the park/school/shop, or at least part of the way, maybe park the car a block away from the school and walk the the last distance.
Include children in walking the dog, if you have one, ask them to help with the cleaning and shopping.
Turn TV advertisement into exercise break, e.g. Jumping Jacks, sit to stand repeatedly (with or without assistance depending on their level of mobility), walking with high knees on the spot, wall push up’s, crab race, rolling and more, only your imagination is the limit.
Make family trips to the playground, park, beach, forest a regular activity. Make them fun not just an ordinary walk, e.g. make up games; how many different colour objects can you find and collect, who can get up the hill in the most different ways, running, jumping, bear walking, make up stories together as you walk, play games as ‘I-spy’, Hide-and-seek, play catch…
Bring some equipment with you to the park, for example badminton can be played everywhere and you don’t need the net. A ball can be used for a number of different games, throwing, kicking, target games, bouncing, teamplay/interaction, how many different ways can you pass the ball to each other e.g. throw, roll, kick, hand it over by your hands from over your head, between your legs, to the side. Play with a frisbee, fly a kite (you can make your own kite at home before you head out) or collect sticks while out and about to make the Kite with when you get back home to fly the following day.
Get some chalk; draw hopscotch on the drive way, draw throwing targets on the ground, which can be labelled with numbers to see who can get the highest score, or label with a specific activity e.g. circle = 10 high jumps, square = hop on one leg and so on. When you are finished the activity get the kids involved to clean the chalk away, so a new game/activity can be drawn the next time.
Get their bikes and scooters out to be used also during the winter.
Remember that children learn from what adults do, so set a good example and join in. Also, it is ok to get dirty and wet, bring wipes in your bag so they can wipe their hands (and clothes) if needed, always make sure you have a set of dry change of clothes in the car and clothes can be thrown into the washing machine when back at home.
However, if the weather is stopping you from venturing outside, physical activities can be carried out at home. Wheelbarrow and crab races can be fun activities.
If you have stairs at home use them to add physical activity (but make sure everyone is safe going up and down, give assistance and support when required); make up games e.g. hide objects upstairs and asked them to go and find it and return down with it and give them the next object to go and find.
Make puzzles on the floor, place some of the pieces to the puzzle on the table so they have to get up and down of the floor to finish it.
Obstacle courses (a good activity for outdoors as well) , don’t touch the ground and so on
Play musical statues
Typically developing children generally start off with good postures in life, however this can be altered over the years by bad habits and inactivity which can lead to future back/neck and joint pain. Let’s try to prevent this if we can.
Remember, exercise should be enjoyable for anyone. If you or your child are experiencing pain or discomfort during activities please stop and get advice from a healthcare professional.
References and helpful links to look up