I don’t know about you but I’ve always taken the ‘start them young’ approach with Luisa. I don’t really see the point in dumbing things down too much or babying her because toddlers are capable of so much and they are constantly learning and growing. If keep waiting until you think they are ready to give them the opportunity to acquire new skills you’ll only hold them back. A healthy dose of failure is what helps them to learn quickly. Of course, it needs to be age appropriate – I mean things like letting them have a go with proper cutlery, allowing them to toddle like foals around the garden even though they’ll fall.
When it comes to encouraging an active lifestyle I don’t think you need to wait until they can join a team or club. After all, good habits start at home don’t they? For that reason I try to make sure Luisa and I head to the park a few times a week. Provided it’s not too crowded I always let her have a go on the climbing frame and other toys. Even though my heart is often in my mouth it always amazes me how well she masters obstacles, especially considering she’s not walking yet.
My main reason for wanting to promote an active lifestyle to Luisa is for the obvious health benefits. I was pretty shocked to read that in the UK 1 in 3 children between the ages of 2 and 10 are overweight. Schools are being encourages to have more PE and promote healthy eating to try and combat this health epidemic and more education is being offered to families.
That being said, research commissioned by ESP Play and undertaken by Liverpool John Moore University shows that your childs PE class might not be as effective as you would hope. The report demonstrated that “68% of a child’s PE lesson is spent stationary”. This research helped ESP Play to refine their unique playground solutions to ensure this percentage decreased. As a result of the research and the changes ESP Play made, they’ve since done further research which has proven a 19% increase in physical activity when schools implement their methods and playground environments. Not too shabby!
ESP Play are specialist manufacturers, suppliers and installers of playground equipment. Having developed thousands of schools throughout the UK, they have gathered years of experience, ideas and examples of best practice. Their unique approach to the use of playground equipment in schools has been subject to independent research from leading universities. As I mentioned above Leeds Metropolitan, Liverpool John Moores and Roehampton University have all been commissioned to evaluate the impact and sustainability of their concept. The NHS have to date invested up to £5m on ESP Play interventions designed to get children and young people more active more often. That huge investment is a brilliant testament to the work they put in to developing equipment and the research they are so focused on.
In the future I really do hope that Luisa attends a school that puts as much importance on the physical aspect of development and education as on learning to read and write. I think the best way to ensure a healthy relationship with exercise is to make it a normal part of daily life. Hopefully the school we choose for her will be one that’s already in the ESP Play family!
For now I’m focussing on building great habits like active play into everyday life. As I said we visit the park often and I encourage her to play in the house rather than watch TV. We’ve also started swimming lessons and take a trip to the soft play when the park is too damp.
When Luisa makes the transition from hands and knees to her two feet I’ll have even more opportunities to enjoy outdoor fun with her. Hopefully be being mindful on a day to day basis i’ll set her in good stead for an active lifestyle as she grows up.
Do you have any tips for keeping toddlers active? What’s the outdoor toy provision like at your childrens nursery or school?