What should the day of a child under primary school age be like to ensure good health, growth and development?
The recommendation for early childhood is at least three hours of physical activity every day
• 1 hour of vigorous physical activity, such as playing tag, jumping on a trampoline, climbing, swimming, cross-country skiing;
• 2 hours of brisk outdoor recreation with light exercise, such as trips in the woods, cycling, walking, throwing a ball, balancing.
• The day should also include unhurried daily chores, avoiding prolonged sedentary periods (over an hour). In addition, it is necessary to ensure sufficient rest and sleep.
• Physical activity should develop basic motor skills diversely and reinforce the sense of participation.
How can I support children’s physical activity?
The recommendations for physical activity in early childhood (2016) include a collection of practical measures that can be used by parents and other guardians, early childhood education and care staff, as well as clubs and other associations organising physical exercise and sports to support the implementation of the recommendations.
In general terms, the role of the family is to encourage the child towards a physically active lifestyle. Practical key factors include doing things and exercising with the child, parenthood that allows freedom to move while also setting boundaries and offering support in suitable proportions, providing clothing suitable for the season, and taking the child to settings that inspire physical activity. Parenthood that supports and encourages physical activity entails genuinely listening to the child and respecting the child’s opinion.
Early childhood education and care staff are encouraged to provide children with adequate opportunities for physically active play on a daily basis. Outdoor recreation forms an important part of a child’s day. Guided physical activity sessions, both indoors and outdoors, can be used to motivate physically less active children and make use of the educational nature of physical activity.
Clubs and other parties involved in organising physical exercise and sports are invited to organise child-oriented activities in keeping with children’s age and maturity. The activities should always be diverse and, first and foremost, nourish children’s enthusiasm.
It is advisable to take the perspective of promoting physical activity into account as early as during community planning and construction phases. Safe and accessible living environments and local sports and exercise facilities create the foundation for children’s physical activity.
Text by: Arto Laukkanen, PhD (Sport and Health Sciences), Researcher, University of Jyväskylä. Dr Laukkanen served as a member of the working group drafting the recommendations for physical activity in early childhood. His PhD thesis dealt with the effects of physical activity counselling provided for families with children on parental support for physical activity and on children’s physical activity and motor development.
Picture: Joy in Motion programme / Jari Härkönen