Making room for active play
There's reason to worry about the fact that obesity is affecting more and more children. The goal of this article is not to point fingers, but to encourage you to think about how you can help stop this trend. In our daycares, sedentary activities (activities enjoyed while sitting or lying down) are numerous and can often represent the better part of our daily schedule. Active play not only boasts many benefits associated with children's health and the development of motor skills, it also helps children channel their energy. In turn, when active play is more present, children's attention span may improve whereas aggressive behavior may be less common. Why must we question ourselves about the presence of active play?
Per Canadian physical activity guidelines, between the ages of 1 and 4 years old, children should be active for at least 180 minutes per day. This can include games and activities with varying intensities.
To begin, I encourage you to think about how active children can be while they are at daycare by answering the following questions.
- How do you support active play within your daycare?
- Are children active enough during the day? If not, what are the obstacles that prevent them from enjoying sufficient active play?
Now that you have a clearer idea of your situation, read on to discover simple ways to increase active play daily.
Strategies for increasing the frequency of active play:
- Schedule daily physical activities during different times of the day, even indoors.
- Visit your local playground often to give children the opportunity to explore various play structures and modules.
- Alternate sedentary and active activities.
- Encourage children to walk instead of sitting in a stroller or wagon or alternate between walking and sitting in the stroller/wagon.
- Limit screen time.
- Encourage children to move in a variety of different ways during routines and transitions.
- Provide a wide range of material encouraging active play and adapted to the ages of the children in your group.
- Set up a gross motor skills area within your daycare (if you have enough space).
- If possible, create a flexible floor plan that makes moving furniture around to create extra space possible for active play.
- Make sure your environment fosters exploration and experimentation.
- Verify that your environment makes it possible for children to safely take certain risks or offer them the technical support required to overcome certain physical challenges (ex. structures or furniture for climbing).
- Adjust the quantity and type of materials available to foster high-intensity games (ex. one ball for two children).
- Act as a model and support children's active play initiatives or participate.
- Educate parents about the importance of active play and share with them how you plan to provide their child with frequent opportunities to be active. Ask them to dress their child accordingly and provide a change of clothes as well as waterproof outerwear so you can go outside on rainy days too.
- Invite parents to participate in an active game at your daycare.
- Step out of your comfort zone and offer activities you may be less familiar with such as yoga.
- Finally, do not hesitate to ask yourself how you could adapt certain typically sedentary activities to allow children to become more active.