Physical capabilities such as running, jumping, kicking, and throwing have advanced significantly by the time children are 4 to 5 years old. They’ll now work on honing these talents and building on them to learn more difficult ones. Use your child’s natural desire to be active to your advantage. Being self-assured in one’s talents boosts self-esteem, and being athletic lowers the risk of developing significant illnesses later in life. In this post, we’ll look at how to get preschoolers to engage in physical activity while also helping them learn and develop new skills.
Fitness for Preschoolers
Physical activity guidelines for preschoolers recommend that each day they:
- get at least 60 minutes of structured (adult-led) physical activity
- get at least 60 minutes of unstructured (free play) physical activity
- not be inactive for more than 1 hour at a time unless sleeping. Limit screen—time spent watching TV (including videos and DVDs), on the computer, and playing videogames—to no more than 1–2 hours per day.
It’s critical to know what preschoolers are capable of. They should engage in enjoyable and demanding activities that help them develop skills and coordination while remaining within their capabilities.
This age group is learning to hop, skip, and jump forward, and they are anxious to demonstrate their ability to balance on one foot (for at least 5 seconds), catch a ball, or do a somersault. Swimming, hiking, dancing, and riding a tricycle or bicycle with training wheels are all activities that preschoolers might enjoy.
To keep their preschoolers busy, many parents turn to organized sports. However, even the most basic skills, including as throwing, catching, and taking turns, are not yet mastered by the ordinary 4- or 5-year-old. Even simple rules can be difficult for children to grasp, as any parent who has seen their child run in the incorrect direction during a game knows.
Starting too early can be frustrating for children and may discourage them from participating in sports in the future. If you want to enroll your preschooler in soccer or another team sport, look for a peewee league that emphasizes basics.
Whatever sport or activity you choose, remember that fitness should be enjoyable. If your youngster isn’t having fun, find out why and try to resolve the problem or find another activity for them to do.
Family Fitness Tips
Walking, playing, and running in the backyard, as well as enjoying playground equipment at a nearby park, can be enjoyable for the entire family. Other activities to attempt as a family or with a group of preschoolers include:
- playing games such as “Duck, Duck, Goose” or “Follow the Leader,” then mixing it up with jumping, hopping, and walking backward
- kicking a ball back and forth
- hitting a ball off a T-ball stand
- playing freeze dance or freeze tag
- pretending to be statues to practice balancing
Even when they’re stuck inside, kids may keep active. Create a safe play area and engage in some vigorous indoor games:
- Treasure hunt: Hide “treasures” throughout the house and provide clues to their locations
- Obstacle course: Set up an obstacle course with chairs, boxes, and toys for the kids to go over, under, through, and around
- Soft-ball games: Use soft foam balls to play indoor basketball, bowling, soccer, or catch. You can even use balloons to play volleyball or catch
WHEN TO CALL A DOCTOR
Consult your doctor if your child refuses to participate or join other children in sports, or if he or she complains of pain after being active. Sports and exercise-loving children are more likely to remain active throughout their lives. Staying fit can also boost self-esteem, reduce obesity, and lower the chances of developing significant illnesses later in life like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Helping Kids Learn New Skills
As they get older, preschoolers learn crucial motor skills. Hoping, jumping forward, catching a ball, completing a somersault, skipping, and balancing on one foot are some of the new skills your preschooler might demonstrate. Play and exercise with your child to help them improve these skills.
Your preschooler may whine about being tired when you go for a stroll, but he or she is most likely bored. For young children, a quick walk can be boring, so try these suggestions to spice up your family stroll:
- Make your walk a scavenger hunt by giving your child something to find, like a red door, a cat, a flag, and something square
- Sing songs or recite nursery rhymes while you walk
- Mix walking with jumping, racing, hopping, and walking backward
- Make your walk together a mathematical experience as you emphasize numbers and counting: How many windows are on the garage door? What numbers are on the houses?
These kinds of activities are fun and also help to prepare kids for school.
Games like “Duck, Duck, Goose” and “London Bridge” are likely to provide organized play for preschoolers at childcare or in preschool programs. Consider enrolling your child in a tumbling or dance class for preschoolers.
You can also provide structured outdoor play for your preschooler at home. Play in the backyard with your kids or work on motor skills like throwing and catching a ball. Trips to the playground are also popular among preschoolers.
Even though many children enjoy being outside, there are numerous activities that can be done indoors, such as a kid-friendly obstacle course, a treasure hunt, or forts created out of sheets, boxes, or chairs. Make a designated play area and remove any breakables from the area.
Here are some more ideas for structured play:
- play bounce catch
- use paper airplanes to practice throwing
- balance a beanbag on your heads while walking—make this more challenging by setting up a simple winding course
- play freeze dance
- play wheelbarrow by holding your child’s legs while he or she walks forward on hands
Many parents want their preschooler to participate in organized sports. Although some leagues accept children as young as four years old, organized and team sports are best left until children are older. Preschoolers are incapable of comprehending complex regulations and frequently lack the attention span, abilities, and coordination required to participate in sports.
If you decide to enroll your preschooler in a structured team activity, such as T-ball or soccer, make sure the emphasis is on developing basic physical skills, such as running, as well as essential social skills, such as following rules and taking turns.
If your preschooler isn’t ready for the team or isn’t interested in sports, help him or her practice fundamental skills such as hopping on one foot, collecting a ball, completing a somersault, and even riding a bicycle or tricycle.
Start with teaching basic baseball skills to preschoolers, such as throwing, catching, and hitting off a T-ball stand. Then, if you’re playing wiffle ball, don’t worry if your child doesn’t tag first base—just getting them to go in the right direction is enough.
When children are left to their own devices in a safe atmosphere, this is known as unstructured or free play. They should be able to engage in a range of physical activities during these times, such as exploring, playing outside, or dancing about the kitchen.
Because they are beginning to identify with others of the same gender, preschoolers often prefer to play a gender-specific role during pretend play. A girl could imitate her mother by pretending to labor in the garden, while a boy could imitate his father by pretending to mow the lawn.
Your preschooler is clearly watching how you spend your time, so set a good example by exercising on a regular basis. Kids who see their parents doing this will naturally want to do it themselves.
It’s crucial to keep safety considerations in mind no matter what form of physical exercise your child participates in. Preschoolers are still working on their coordination, balance, and judgment.
As preschoolers play, the difficulty for parents is to strike a balance between allowing them to explore new things while still keeping them safe and avoiding injuries.
- A child on a tricycle or bike should always wear a helmet.
- If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to talk about street safety because even the most cautious preschooler may dart into the street after a ball.
- A preschooler in a swimming pool needs constant adult supervision, even if he or she has learned to swim.
It’s a delicate age because kids desire and need greater freedom, but they can’t be left alone. Limits must still be set for preschoolers by their parents.
Giving children safe opportunities to play in both planned and unstructured ways lays the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle that will last them a lifetime.