How To Support Physical Development At Home
Natalie Weir (Guest Physical Development Researcher)
Little Movers, Big Impact!
Have you ever noticed the sheer joy on your little one's face when they're running, jumping, or just moving and playing with their toys? That's not just happiness; it's a vital aspect of their development.
As a Mum, PhD researcher & founder of Inspector Play, I live and breath the challenges of modern life with 2 energetic girls under 5. So, I get it. When you have played back-to-back episodes of Peter Rabbit so you can hang the washing out and get the dinner on. I feel you, when you have pulled out the tablet first thing so you can get half an hour more in bed.
Whilst your little whirlwind may seem to have boundless energy and always be moving, data reveals the reality. Did you know that...
Under 5’s spend 50-70% of their time engaged in sedentary behaviour (seated or lying).
1 in 4 children in the UK are overweight or obese by the time they start primary school.
Regular physical activity helps your child develop strong muscles and bones, enables them to practice small and large movement skills plus, it's like a secret potion for brain growth and cognitive development. When children move, they learn, problem-solve, and become more coordinated little beings.
In just a few short years, your child will go from crawling and babbling to running, jumping and trying to walk on their hands (OK so maybe that’s just my 4-year-old) so let’s challenge ourselves to think about how we can apply some simple things at home to support physical development;
Make it regular.
Embrace as much opportunity for free movement play as you can, including activity that will get your child’s heart rate and breathing rate up (research shows us that most physically active fun can be achieved through role play, music, dance, and construction activities). 60 mins of continuous sedentary behaviour is what we need to try and avoid.
Think audio (not visual) when it comes to tech time.
In our digital age, it's nearly impossible to keep children away from screens entirely.
But, babies are not able to avert their gaze from the flickering light emitted by the screen, and ideally, it’s best to keep sedentary screen time to under 1 hour for toddlers and preschoolers.
However, audio can enhance active behaviours so is a better choice than video so think animal sounds, action nursery rhymes, songs and stories.
Channel your inner child.
Think creatively about your home environment – from where games like “hot lava” or “piranha fish attack” can be unleashed via laminate flooring with lines or tiles, to positioning items strategically to encourage movement. For example putting balls in one room and a bucket in another - promoting back-and-forth movement.
Balance structured and unstructured play.
Plan physically engaging activities based on the child's interests and imagination but that give opportunity to involve small muscles working with the brain and nervous system to control movements such as the hands, fingers, lips, tongue, and eyes (fine motor skills) and those that require larger muscles for actions like jumping and dancing (gross motor skills).
Where possible have sedentary activities or toys (like a playhouse) off the floor and onto a raised table so the little ones must stand. Also think about having handy resources like rattles, bells, balls, and ribbons accessible during free play.
Make it fun!
Channel your inner child and if (like my 2-year-old) your little one has the ability to instruct a smart speaker) then embrace prancing around the kitchen singing I like to move it move it over and over again.
Engage in physical activities together, emphasise enjoyment and remember, creating a playful and enjoyable atmosphere is key to fostering a love for movement in children – so what are you waiting for, let’s go Play!
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