Exercise That Feels Like Play: Raising Healthy Children in 2020
Childhood television personality Fred Rogers is often quoted for saying, “For children, play is serious learning.” Although Mr. Rogers wasn’t the first — or the last — to make this observation, his words sum up what teachers, psychologists, and scientists have known for a long time: Play is the best way to encourage children to grow into healthy, active adults.
At a time when play is more important than ever, many children are suffering from a lack of physical activity. Today, 18.5 percent of children are considered obese, in large part due to a lack of exercise.
When it comes to getting children to exercise, one of the easiest, most effective solutions is to simply encourage kids to play.
But what exactly are the benefits of getting more active? And what kinds of “play” will yield the most health benefits?
What Are the Benefits of Physical Activity for Kids?
Encouraging exercise and active play in children significantly benefit their growth and development. Specifically, physical activity helps kids in the following ways.
1. Develop a Healthy Heart, Bones, and Muscles
Running. Jumping. Climbing. Riding a bicycle. Swimming. Swinging. All of these are beloved childhood activities, and all of these are known to help children develop strong bones and muscles. Strong bones and muscles protect against injury and aid in proper growth over time. One of the body’s most important muscles — the heart — also benefits from the regular exercise and increased oxygen it gets when the body engages in these and other similar activities.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Children who are overweight are more likely to grow up to be overweight adults, which puts them at risk for a number of serious health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, later in life. Regular activity helps to burn calories and prevent the build-up of extra weight in children, reducing their risk of serious health complications now and in the future.
3. Improve Their Immune System
Spending time outdoors has been shown to strengthen a child’s immune system. Besides helping to prevent illness, having a stronger immune system allows your child to effectively fight off illness when it occurs. During cold and flu season, it also reduces exposure to germs by giving children a chance to get out of the classroom or house — places germs tend to congregate — especially if others around them are ill.
When you encourage a child to engage in physical activity outdoors, you’re teaching them valuable skills for coping with the day-to-day pressures that come with school, sports, and friends. When they’re outside, they can breathe fresh air and work off the energy that has accumulated from sitting at a desk all day. If they’re alone, they can spend time decompressing and processing the day’s events. If they’re with friends, they can enjoy laughing and interacting with others without the rules and restrictions of the school day.
How to Get Kids Moving
Looking to get kids to exercise more? If a child hasn’t spent much time being active lately, finding ways to pique their interest can be challenging. Fortunately, there are many exercises for young children who don’t feel like exercising at all. When it comes to finding these exercises, remember these tips.
1. Have Fun
Kids don’t need a workout regimen to get active. In fact, odds are that setting up a routine of jumping jacks and sprints will quickly be met with resistance. The best way to incorporate activity into a child’s daily routine is to simply incorporate activities they enjoy, such as nature hikes, bike rides through the neighborhood, swimming at a pool, or kicking a soccer ball in the backyard.
2. Change It Up
Adults tend to value a workout “routine” where they do the same activity at the same time each day. Kids don’t need a workout routine — they need variety. If a child went for a bike ride yesterday, encourage them to invite a friend over for tag and hide-and-seek outside the next day. If they swam at the pool one day, suggest a parent-supervised walk through a local park the next day. When an activity is presented as an adventure, kids are more likely to engage and enjoy what they’re doing.
3. Use the Playground
Parents around the world view the playground as a place to go when they need a break from chasing their kids. But did you know the playground is one of the best places for children to get the exercise they need to stay healthy? Playground equipment is designed to encourage children to develop strength, agility, balance, motor skills, and more. Plus, it’s so much fun, they don’t realize they’re exercising, too!
Try a Playground Workout
Playground exercise for children is a fun and simple way to encourage activity. Playground play also promotes independence, problem-solving skills, and social interaction among peers, which means its a good way to exercise the brain as well! Among the varieties of playground equipment out there, these three different types of activities are some of the best when it comes to playground exercise for kids.
1. The Swings
To a child, swinging is a grand adventure that makes them feel like they’re flying. But swinging also has a number of physical benefits. When a child swings, they engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. This develops and improves motor skills and coordination. It teaches them an awareness of how their body is positioned and how to engage muscles to achieve results such as swinging faster or higher.
2. The Slide
Like swinging, sliding has multiple physical benefits and provides fun exercise for children outdoors. First, to get to the top of a slide, children must climb. Depending on how the playground is constructed, climbing to the top will typically engage arm and leg muscles. Climbing and strengthening these muscle groups also goes a long way toward improving coordination. Going down the slide is fun and exciting — and physically beneficial too! When a child slides, it engages their vestibular system, which is the system of the body that’s responsible for improving and maintaining balance.
3. Climbing Walls, Towers, and Other Equipment
Every playground incorporates different equipment. But regardless of what equipment is included in a school or neighborhood playground, it’s all designed to improve a child’s balance, coordination, and muscle strength. Some playgrounds may incorporate a climbing wall or tower designed to encourage muscle development. Other playgrounds may incorporate a sandbox or musical instruments, designed to stimulate senses of touch or sound. Or they may incorporate monkey bars which can help children develop and improve muscle strength, as well as hand-eye coordination.
Play Experiences From Little Tikes Commercial
At Little Tikes Commercial, we believe that play and exercise should go hand-in-hand. That’s why we’re dedicated to creating high-quality, trusted playground equipment for children of all ages and abilities. Ready to build the perfect play space for your school or community? Contact us today.