Activities; a recipe for growth and the betterment of children
Children are in perpetual search for activity. This fascination with activity serves growth and learning – so keeping a child happy and active means keeping a child growing both physically and intellectually. Another great benefit of promoting an active life for children is the socialisation element. Activities are a primary means by which children meet other children and learn to develop social skills and language skills. To go even further, such opportunities allow a child to fully recognize the need to share, wait their turn, and behave in a way in which everyone has fun and no one is hurt. Activities can help to build an intelligent, social, physically fit and empathetic child.
There are many studies supporting the benefits of keeping your child active, but being active can mean different things to different people, so how do you foster an environment which will be most beneficial while also most enjoyable for your child? Well, try a lot of stuff out; use activities to explore the world or discover facts, learn games, and have fun. Giving your child or the children you care for a great number of activities is the most beneficial means to promote healthy growth in a happy child.
Read on to discover some ideas for fun, exciting, fulfilling, educational, and even convenient ideas for activities for your child (and maybe even yourself)…
An Active Child Is A Growing Child: The benefits of an active lifestyle
In a recent study conducted at Hunter College in New York City, the subject of child physical activity was explored. In this study, a strong link was made between healthy body mass and body fat. The study was conducted on a population of ethnically Mayan children over a span of two decades. The study was able to show that more physical activities greatly reduced percent body fat, as well as general body mass index¹.
Physical activity in children has been explored by a great number of different studies. Another such study, also conducted in the United States, explored the health of large numbers of active children versus inactive children. In this study, active children were defined as those spending 60 minutes or more each day doing physical activities. This was the study which launched the “Play 60” ad campaign, encouraging parents to have their children engage in 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
In this CDC study², regular physical activity promotes not only heart and lung health, strong bones and muscles, and healthy weight, it also has been shown to reduce the risk and symptoms of anxiety and depression, cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and obesity in both the immediate term, and later on, into adult life.
Not All Activity Is Physical Activity – And It Need Not Be
Although physical activities are important to a child’s growth and health, there is more to life than sports, and there is more to be done than simply physical play. Non-physical activities can be both fun and educational, while some activities may be neither physical or educational, but instead may be good for socialisation or even simply enjoying life. It is important to teach children not only about math and reading and physical health but also the importance of joy simply for the sake of enjoyment. There are plenty of activities which may be a means by which a child finds joy, a hobby, or a new skill or concept.
Diversity Is The Spice Of Life
In a lot of ways, children are like adults; they find enjoyment in experiencing new or different things. And, by experiencing them, they learn something new about the world around them. This is something that should be kept in mind when planning activities for a child.
It should also be considered that, when and if a child develops a passion for a specific activity, it is a good idea to encourage that interest, while it remains important to also encourage a continual exposure to new activities and environments. This will keep the child engaged while also accommodating learning and developing social skills. A diversity of experience in youth will help to raise a child with diverse knowledge and interests and an ability to adapt and thrive in a large diversity of social environments.
In a study conducted at Nebraska University, the question of diversity in activities in young children was explored³. The study was able to illuminate the fact that children begin to develop social concepts as early as 2 & 1/2 years of age, and are beginning to develop opinions on social matters even before they have the language to describe those opinions or influences. The study also found that having a good diversity of experiences serve to combat the development of unfair or unreasonable social perceptions in these children as they continue to grow into adulthood.
Having experiences which expose a child to culture will aid the learning and development of the child, and will help the child to develop interests in culture, history and social matters later in life, and will also serve to aid in the comprehension of such topics.
There are many ways to expose children to diverse social and cultural environments and can be as simple as dining at culturally valuable restaurants, visiting a park in a neighbourhood with a unique cultural significance, outdoor concerts, and even motion pictures can offer a child a glimpse of different cultures.
Technology: Friend Or Foe?
The advent of the smartphone, video game console, computer, tablet, and internet have created a problem of distraction and disinterestedness in many children. Their social skills and ability to engage is hindered by an excessive dependence on technology for entertainment. Many undesirable outcomes have been associated with excessive use of technology for activity and entertainment in children and adults alike.
Clearly, it is important not to depend on the use of technology for activities and entertainment in an unhealthy way, but it is also unwise to prohibit or greatly limit the use of technology by parents or carers. There are many activities which are offered on tablets and smartphones which can help a child learn skills such as mathematics or languages, not to mention reading and computer skills. Video game consoles also have the ability to foster some social interaction between children, especially when the weather is not conducive to more physical activity.
With technology, just like all things, it is best to have a good balance – too much technology is not a good thing for your child’s growth, but not enough may also be doing a child a disservice, as it is important to learn the skills necessary to navigate technology effortlessly, and many skills can be developed thanks to technology.
Ultimately, It’s About Balance
In summation, it is wise to create a broad set of activities for children. Many different activities offer different advantages for the child, helping them learn, exercise, interact with other children, or merely gifting them the benefits of joy and fun. There is no strict diet of activity which is best for children, what is going to be the best for your child’s happiness and growth may be different from another child. Regardless, just keeping children active can improve their behaviour while enhancing the bond between child and parent/carer and improving their understanding of the world and accommodating their healthy growth.
¹ Physical Activity Impacts Child Growth, Samual Urlacher. http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/communications/pressroom/news/physical-activity-impacts-child-growth-study-finds
² CDC Healthy Schools, Activity Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm