Let’s get physical: childhood health and well-being experts urge active gift-giving
It is important to keep children physically active over the Christmas holiday break, and for adults to consider giving gifts that encourage physical activity and outdoor play, according to University of Western Australia Associate Professor Hayley Christian, an expert on improving children’s physical activity levels, health and well-being.
Professor Christian has undertaken extensive research into physical activity and its impact on the development of children and said although limited screen time doesn’t hurt, getting children more active was important.
“Our research indicates that two thirds of children between the ages of two and five are not getting enough physical activity and 70 per cent are exceeding the recommended one hour of screen time each day,” Professor Christian said.
“It’s important that we look at different ways to engage children, and get them more physically active, playing outdoors and away from devices.
“There are a range of important health benefits in doing so, such as instilling the importance of physical activity early on which has life-long benefits, improving their cognitive development, bone development and reducing their risk of obesity later in life.”
Professor Christian said the choice of what was provided to children at Christmas was important and really the best gift of all was spending time with them.
“Gifts don’t have to be expensive. Multi-use toys such as blocks, sidewalk chalk, beach toys, skateboards, playdough and balls are great and encourage imagination and physical activity,” she said.
Nature Play WA CEO Griffin Longley said the Christmas holiday period should be about having fun as a family and building memories together.
“How we spend time together as a families helps set the patterns and memories kids will take into the rest of their lives,” Mr Longley said.
“No one ever looks back lovingly at long hours spent playing video games. Playing together in the outdoors is the perfect recipe for health and for filing our collective memories with laughter and good times.”
Ms Christian’s Top 5 suggestions to keep children healthy and active:
- Plan a picnic at the park or beach
- Make up a new game in the backyard
- Use recycled materials to make your own obstacle challenge
- Build a cubby
- Play chasey or hide and seek.
For more information on Ms Christian’s research into early childhood physical activity, visit the University of Western Australia’s Play Spaces and Environments for Children’s Physical Activity (PLAYCE) website.