Whatever the weather, get up and go with your child to help keep him healthy, active and full of energy this winter.
Exercise can help children concentrate, solve problems and improve their memories. It can also help them learn – one study found that a 20-minute walk can help kids who usually have trouble paying attention. Experts suggest that children should be getting at least 90 minutes’ exercise a day to prevent heart disease in later life – but to keep your child’s interest, make sure fitness stays fun!
“Any activity, from a walk to a game of football, improves psychological wellbeing, stimulates blood flow and helps kids feel alert,” says childhood obesity specialist Paul Sacher.
Try encouraging toddlers to walk with you to their favourite places, advises child psychologist Kris Murrin. “Persuade children out of their pushchairs and off buggy boards. Make it fun and they’ll naturally want to get up and go. Going to the park on foot or tea at a friend’s house gets children into good habits.”
Encourage new sport skills
From three to four years old, your child learns a whole new set of movement skills, which will also give him something new to focus on when he gets to the park or into the garden. Make sure he gets a chance to practice these so he can improve his techniques:
- Catching a ball
- Balancing on one foot for five seconds or longer
- Doing a somersault
Ideas for outdoor fun and games
Wrap up warm and get outside. Here are some brilliant ideas that will keep you and your child exercising this winter – come rain, shine or even snow!
- Play ‘Follow the Leader’. Take it in turns being the leader, hopping, jumping and walking backwards round the park or garden.
- It may be chilly, but you can still play ‘Hot and Cold’ round your local park. Pick an object (the old tree, the green bench), and shout ‘warm’, ‘hot’, ‘boiling’ as your child gets nearer, and ‘cool’, ‘cold’ or ‘freezing’ as she gets further away.
- If a spell of very cold weather is forecast, make a frozen mobile together. First collect a few natural items to display, for example, a piece of ivy, an autumn leaf or a snowdrop. Then place your treasures in three separate jam jar lids arranged on a tray in a row. Fill each lid with water, and arrange a length of string across all three so that it will freeze into the water to join the frozen discs together. Place in the freezer or on a freezing windowsill. Once solid, ease the icy circles from the lids and hang just outside the window to admire for as long as the cold snap lasts.