© Pavel Losevsky | Dreamstime.com
Here’s a truth about very young children: Unless they’re fast asleep, they love to be in motion. They run to their classroom, leap over puddles, squirm in your lap while reading a story.
While it can be exhausting, this is also great news. A child’s energy is momentum we can harness to lead young children toward becoming healthy adults.
When you help your child establish patterns of physical activity early on, they are more likely to practice healthy behaviors later in life and less likely to make common choices that can be predictors of future health woes, such as smoking, alcohol abuse, or poor diet.
Benefits of Activity
The physical benefits of being active are well known. Doctors have touted the importance of exercise in children for decades. But now, emerging science is giving parents a new imperative to encourage exercise. Since these benefits take root early, there’s no reason to wait to get your child moving.
Research indicates that along with shaping the body, physical activity also builds the mind, especially the emotional and social areas of the brain. Team sports, meditative yoga, outdoor play with peers, and family walks can lead children to important lessons about themselves and others.
The Park • In a city’s many public spaces, children can combine their imagination with their physicality, and go wild in a safe place. As an added bonus, they’ll generally encounter other kids, which is good way for your child to develop broader empathy and a better understanding of diversity. Waiting his turn to swing, work a seesaw, or play inventive games can provide social and emotional experiences.
On Foot • The Greenline, the Shelby Farms trails, the hikable hills of Shelby Forest or Chickasaw Park, our area is bursting with interesting pathways to explore on a family walk. Get tricked out in comfortable shoes and find the route for your family. Kids will love seeing how easy nature is to encounter in Memphis, and sharing the path with walkers, bicyclists, and dog-joggers can teach subtle but key lessons about our social web.
A Little Structure
Among Peers • Its 2015, give your little girl a nod for the karate class she’s been talking about, or introduce your fidgety son to yoga for preschoolers. You’ll quickly see your children beginning to learn how their bodies move and function. They’ll also learn where they fit into a team and how their talents blend with others. Those experiences will likely provide the hilarious-in-retrospect childhood rites of passage that come from dramatic lessons in pride and embarrassment.
With the Family • There are also fun opportunities for family sporting, from the more elaborate camping and canoeing weekend to simply setting up the croquet set in the backyard. Children hone their motor skills and sweat a bit in the outdoors while they’re absorb lessons in rule-following, winning and losing, and following directions from a team leader. You’re also expose them to new experiences, and possibly introduce them to new, life-long habits.