The right exercise for your child
We spend lots of time making sure our children stay healthy. Giving them a head start on a lifetime of physical fitness may be one of the best ways to accomplish this goal and protect them from childhood obesity, a growing health problem in Malaysia.
To get our child started on the road to an active life, it can help to know how to choose the type of games, exercise and organized sports that are right for them.
Suitable activity for an appropriate ageWith kids of all ages, it's important to select activities that they find fun and rewarding. We may have been the super stars of the school football team, but our children may just prefer dancing.
Children don't need organized athletics to develop athletic skills or to get physical active. It's more important that they are involved in some sort of physical activity, whether it's hiking and biking with the family or playing games with the neighborhood kids.
Every child develops at a different rate. It's best to work within the child's maturity and skill level in order to understand what really works best for them.
Ages 2 to 3Very young kids are beginning to master many basic movements such as running, catching and jumping. So they're just too young for most types of structured exercise.
For this age group you could try:
- Free, supervised but unstructured playtime with other children
- Running and walking, in a yard or playground
- Swinging on a yard or playground set
- Supervised water play
- Toddler gymnastics classes led by professionals
Ages 4 to 6For this age group you could try:
- Games such as hopscotch or tag
- Jumping rope
- Playing catch with a lightweight ball
- Riding a tricycle or a bike with training wheels
Once your child reaches the age of 6, their motor skills improve and he or she should be able to make better decisions about safety. Your child may also be ready for team sports.
Ages 7 to 10For this age group you could try:
Age 10 and aboveFor this age group you could try:
- Aerobics and strength training that stresses proper weight training technique, as carefully supervised by a sports medicine professional
- Organized team sports
- Running and track and field events
Can children exercise every day?Children should spend at least one hour a day engaged in physical activity or a specific form of exercise. For older children participating in fitness classes and strength training, limit those workouts to no more than 30 minutes, three days a week, with a day of rest in between.
Benefits of organized sportsIn addition to physical benefits, playing in teams or pairs teaches children about:
- Accepting feedback
- Following directions
- Interacting with others
- Taking turns
When it comes to organized sports, make sure the child really wants to play. Never force a child to participate or join a team. Also consider your child's schedule. Children who are already signed up for music lessons and the school play may feel overwhelmed if athletics are added to the mix. You may also want to discuss with your child to find out what they feel about it.
How to find the sport that's best for our children?
If you decide to pursue sports for your child, consider how sports differ, including the:
- Amount of equipment needed and it's cost
- Amount of physical contact
- Emphasis on individual skill
- Emphasis on team performance
- Size of the team
- Opportunity for each child to participate
Your community might offer a wide range of sports. If so, allow your child to sample several activities. Younger children may benefit from exploring several options before settling on one or two.
Try team sports such as softball and soccer, as well as individual sports such as tennis, running and golf. Observe as you go. Is your child comfortable with the physical nature of a contact sport? Does he or she have the hand-eye coordination to compete in certain sports that use a ball?
Once your child indicates an interest in a sport, consider whether that sport is a good match given your child's height, weight, strength and coordination. Is the sport also a good psychological match? Some children accept coaching well and willingly attend several practices and a game each week. Others are more independent and feel more comfortable with an individual training routine.
How can I support my child?
Overall, be positive and encouraging. Emphasize effort and improvement over winning or personal performance.
Attend events and practices as your schedule allows, and act as a good model of sportsmanship yourself. Above all, keep your child's sport in perspective.
If your child decides to quit a sport or specific activity, look for signs of stress that seem tied to sports or overtraining. Your child can take up the same or another sport later, or build fitness through other activities, such as martial arts or dance.
Whether your child runs track or plays football, keep your eye on your long-term goal and encourage your child to be a fit, healthy and happy adult. Serve as an active role model at all levels of your child's development. Once your child sees that you enjoy physical activity, he or she will be much more likely to want to participate too. Help your child see that fitness fun can be a way of life, and he or she will come out a winner every time.
By Learning Edge Consultants (Tel: 603-42568909)
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