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Children love a run around and it's so good for them; we should encourage them at every stage of their development and at all ages. Research shows that children who are active at a young age tend to stay active later as teens and then show a greater desire to remain active in later life. These are the children who are less likely to develop heart disease or become obese when they are older.
But why get involved in sport?
Sport and exercise helps children in all sorts of ways; it assists their academic, social, mental and of course physical development.
How does physical activity contribute towards academic development?
If a child is not active, they will probably have low muscle tone. With low muscle tone, a child's ability in school can be inhibited. They may not have the stamina to keep up with activities involving fine motor skills (writing, making and creating) and friends will be ahead of them. As they grow older, they may not have the stamina to keep up in an exam situation, because they are physically weaker.
If they are active, they are working on muscle tone, doing lots of activities means they are using their muscles to make them stronger. There is also research to suggest physical fitness and ability in the classroom are related and that more active children do better at school. Healthier children are more ready to learn, it seems. There is a discipline involved with sports and physical activities which will effect a child's attitude to school work and their desire to do well.
How does physical activity help with social skills and confidence?
Children playing in teams work together and build on the idea of team work and sharing the defeats and successes of sport. They gain confidence and learn about trying, practicing and improving a skill. This confidence and teamwork effects how they treat their fellow classmates and makes them more happy and confident with themselves.
How do team activities and sport help with life skills?
...they can make children more self-disciplined and more self assured, they improve social interaction and working with others. Team activities establish the idea of being a good sports person, being a member of a team and being honourable. They help with attention span and determination to succeed. They introduce the idea of commitment and being accountable for your actions and build strength and improve gross motor skills to help children become more courageous and bold to try new things.
If your little one is 2-3 what can they do to start with?
Learn about the body and what it can do! Name body parts, discover how they move. You can crawl, run, skip (perhaps!), jump, hop (maybe?) and all these skills are basic but vital before moving on to the next stage of physical development and competence. Balancing, moving with apparatus and being in control are the key things to learn about.
If your little one is 3 - 4?
It's all about being in control and having lots of fun! Use balls to roll, throw and try to catch! Use big balls, small balls and all sorts of other things instead of balls to throw and catch with. Give lots of praise and have a laugh together whatever you are doing. Be supportive both mentally (ie. encouraging) and physically (ie. hold them when they climb a tree) while their confidence grows.
If your little ones are 4 - 5?
Practice and practice some more! Work on skills that they are good at and the ones they are not so good at. Practice balancing on logs, climbing trees, running and doing obstacle courses to improve and build on their strengths.
So, get out there! Join a club, go for walk, scoot along the parks, swim in the local pool, run around the garden and have fun!
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