Carol is a physical therapist and 6-year-old Pedro and 2-year-old Clara’s mother. She is in lockdown with her family, without being allowed to leave her apartment (literally!) since her building has been closed by the Civil Defense, and she has had to get creative in order to make her children practise physical activity.
The benefits of physical activities
Children are a source of energy and life! It is in their nature to be in motion and in creativity. To stimulate and support this nature can be a huge incentive to the promotion and development of health in children and teenagers.
The practice of physical activities during childhood and teenage years helps to readjust the energy balance and to prevent obesity, improves blood circulation and the oxygenation of the body and the brain, boosts the metabolism, reinforces the immune system, improves cognition, self-esteem and the feeling of well-being.
Physical activity develops muscle strength, flexibility and endurance, improves motor coordination, stimulates bone metabolism, increases breathing and heart capacity, and lifts the mood, in both the short and long term.
Being physically active everyday is important for the promotion of integral health in children and teenagers, and it is fundamental that activities are enjoyable and adequate for the individual state of growth of each child and teenager.
What is it and how can it be done?
According to the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics, physical activity can be stimulated in children’s lives from their first year of life. Rolling over, crawling, walking, running, jumping and other types of exercise bring numerous health benefits.
In times of technological advances and wide availability of virtual games, tablets and videogames, the practice of physical activity can fall by the wayside. Children usually mirror and are inspired by the actions and life habits of their parents or the adults surrounding them and, because of that, we need to be careful with what we want to pass on to our children and teenagers.
Following a healthy routine with the incentive of good eating habits, meditation and physical exercise at home so the little ones keep being active is very important to promote healthy growth and development.
But what should be done, and how should it be done, when there are strenuous work hours, so little time and a thousand things to handle? And furthermore: what about when you are in lockdown, without being able to leave the house, and with two children in an apartment?
It’s okay, mom and dad, we are in this together! There are days in which we look like a family of athletes, but there are days in which everything becomes a mess! Relax, it’s one day at a time until it turns into a pleasant routine.
I will share with you here some of the things we have been living and which are working in my experience!
We can create a favourable and attractive environment to the practice of physical activities with children. Anything goes! You can play around, dance, play games, throw a party, put on music – the important thing is to let them do the activity freely and at ease.
Determining a time of the day to carry out the physical activity is quite interesting and it works. For instance, at 10 o’clock in the morning we gathered in the living room and called out for the exercise hour. We put on a nice song that the children like and watched how they reacted. And then we proposed a series of exercises to them and we all executed them.
These workouts usually last from 10 to 15 minutes, and involve jumping jacks, squats and push-ups. Our children more often than not mimic us doing these exercises and gradually get in the mood! From then on, we let their imagination and creativity run freely! Sometimes it turns into a mess, at others we manage to do it and create super fun exercises!
It is important to guide them while also being attentive to the flow, to what the children want to tell and show us! They will often have much cooler and fun ideas and inventions than the ones we want to propose to them!
I will mention some physical activities here that the children and we enjoy together and that may be great for you too!
- Activities that involve motor skills such as running, dancing, rolling, and jumping can be great fun and dynamic. They stimulate creativity, attention and global and focal motricity, laterality, and spatial and body development!
- Creating obstacle courses with hula hoops, cushions, empty PET bottles or using their own toys as obstacles and barriers to cross can be a lot of fun! Let the child create and help in the construction!
- Target practice activities, such as throwing bottle caps or plastic or paper balls into plastic cups (or other containers); standing plastic bottles as targets and throwing hoops or the inside of a duct tape roll to hit them;
- Sack race using pillowcases;
- Long jumps in a mattress, using duct tape to record each person’s jump in order to stimulate movement motor skills, strength and flexibility;
- Miming games with themes such as animals or characters. It stimulates body language and body awareness;
- Relay race games, in which a baton or a ball is passed on;
- Throwing balls into baskets or buckets to stimulate concentration and motor coordination;
- Soccer with a cardboard ball;
- Games such as “who can gather the toys faster after the whistle” or “who can find more green balls” for example, in a set amount of time;
- Simon says: run, jump on one foot, clap your hands, bring your hand down to your foot, sit down and stand up…
There are a lot of games we can create in form of exercise! If we make room for physical activity in our routines and bring our children with us, what is supposed to be an important benefit to our health also becomes a moment of love, joyfulness and bonding!
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