12 Ways to Increase Your Toddler's Fitnessby Katlyn Joy | February 27, 2012 7:16 AM
Every toddler needs plenty of physical activity. Any parent knows a toddler is a natural perpetual motion machine but what counts as actual exercise for a toddler? And how much is enough when it comes to exercise with the smaller set?
- Aim for 30 minutes of structured play time such as kickball or riding a tricycle.
- Give your child an hour of unstructured physical play where they are free to climb, run, jump and hop about.
- Endurance. Kids need to sustain a physical level of intensity.
- Flexibility. Toddlers need to work on their reaching, stretching and general flexibility.
- Strength. Throwing balls, pulling up on playground equipment and crossing monkey bars are ways to develop strength.
Why Exercise is So Important
Your toddler will begin a healthy habit of staying active. This in turn reduces the risk of obesity later in life, or even in childhood. This means a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Kids who exercise will develop strong bones and muscles and will likely sleep better at night. All this leads to a child who can be more emotionally and mentally prepared for whatever the day holds.
12 Ways to Increase Your Toddler's Fitness
1. Schedule regular physical exercise into your weekly schedule. If it's on the calendar, it's less likely to be overlooked.
2. Take a walk to get the mail, pick up a gallon of milk or visit a friend. By rushing less, you can find moments for a nice walk together and enjoy each other's company in the fresh air.
3. Teach your child some physical games or skills. Teach your child to throw and catch a ball, or how to kick one. Introduce your child to different sports and play along.
4. Join a local recreation center and take advantage of classes geared to toddlers such as gymnastics, soccer or swimming.
5. Model positive exercise attitudes by regularly working out. Your child wants to grow up to be like you so make sure your example is a positive and healthy one.
6. Set up an indoor or outdoor obstacle course from items you have on hand.
7. Make your own handmade bowling alley in your basement or garage with clean 2 liter soda bottles and a foam ball.
8. Give your child an indoor space to run and jump in inclement weather. No couch potatoes just because it's December.
9. Race each other to the end of the block or time each other with a stopwatch and see if you can better your time next week.
10. Find easy trails to walk with your toddler or short hikes not far from home. Your child will welcome the opportunity to explore nature.
11. Put on some music and dance away with your toddler. Don't worry that your moves are clunky or dated. Your toddler will love it and you'll both get a fun workout.
12. Give your child a safe outdoor play area to climb and explore. Gross motor skills are important to practice during the toddler years.
What to Avoid
- Don't overschedule your toddler with formal organized sports. It's too much too soon.
- Don't let your child lie around playing video games or watching t.v. for more than two hours a day.
- Limit sedentary activities to no more than one hour at a stretch.
- Allow your child decision making in what sports or physical activities to pursue. Nothing will turn off a child to physical activity more than being forced into something that doesn't appeal to the child.
- Don't push to overexertion or criticize your child's efforts. The goal is fitness not perfection or scholarships at this point!
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