Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued new guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under five. Currently, 80 percent of adolescents do not get enough physical activity. According to WHO, the key to tackling childhood obesity and physical activity is getting it right from the very beginning. Specifically, it is thought that increasing the amount of active playtime for children under five will help kids to grow up healthy.
“Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical and mental wellbeing and help to prevent childhood obesity,” the report uncovers.
Dr Juana Willumsen, WHO focal point for childhood obesity and physical activity, explains, “What we really need to do is bring back play for children. This is about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime while protecting sleep.”
Examples of active play include ball games, obstacle courses, musical chairs, building hide-outs and cubby houses, acting out plays or playing hide and seek. Each of these examples demonstrate physical activity. However, interactive non-screen based sedentary activities such as puzzles, reading, nursery rhymes and music-making are also very important for child development.
Creating opportunities for active play is particularly important in early childhood as this is a period of rapid development when lifestyle patterns can easily be adapted to ensure physical activity becomes part of the daily routine. Young kids are more impressionable, so it is much easier to create healthy habits if you start early!
The WHO guidelines document helpful daily recommendations for children under five:
Infants (under one year)
- Physical activity: floor-based interactive play several times a day or more, with at least 30 minutes of tummy time for non-mobile infants.
- Sedentary behaviour: screen time is not recommended; infants should not be restrained for more than one hour at a time (in pram, baby carrier or high chairs); seek out interactive opportunities such as reading and storytelling.
- Sleep: 14-17 hours (zero to three months) or 12-16 hours (four to 11 months) per day, including naps.
Toddlers (one to two years old)
- Physical activity: at least 180 minutes in a range of physical activities at varying intensity throughout the day.
- Sedentary behaviour: screen time is not recommended for children under two (limit to one hour maximum for two-year-olds); toddlers should not be restrained for more than one hour at a time (in pram, baby carrier or high chairs) or sit for extended periods; seek out interactive opportunities such as reading and storytelling.
- Sleep: 11-14 hours of quality sleep, including naps; a sleep routine is recommended.
Children (three to four years old)
- Physical activity: at least 180 minutes in a range of physical activities at varying intensity throughout the day, with at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity.
- Sedentary behaviour: maximum one hour of screen time is recommended; children should not be restrained for more than one hour at a time (in pram or stroller); seek out interactive opportunities such as reading and storytelling.
- Sleep: 10-13 hours of quality sleep, including naps; a sleep routine is recommended.
Apart from the health benefits outlined above, there are many reasons why play is essential in early childhood. We uncover five essential classroom skills learned through play:
Through play, children learn to speak, listen, read and write – essential communication skills for classroom learning.
Play nurtures children’s natural sense of curiosity. They are provided a fun and safe avenue to explore, inquire and question.
3. Gross and motor skills
Play encourages children to move around and be physical, helping them to learn ball skills, how to manipulate objects and pick up coordination skills.
4. Social skills
The social benefits of play are immense. Children learn how to negotiate, share and be respectful as well as gaining more complex skills such as problem-solving, empathetic behaviour, regulating emotions and dealing with anxiety and fear.
Play is a great way for kids to experiment, use their imagination and try new things.
Whether you are out and about, enjoying a day at home, or travelling in the car, there are so many opportunities for families to play together. Discover our tips to incorporate active play into family life. Even if your child is over five, it’s not too late! People of every age need to make a conscious effort to get enough sleep and regular exercise. As parents, you can create opportunities to ensure your children experience this and remove barriers preventing them from happening. You can ask yourself the following questions:
- Are we playing together as a family?
- Are we getting enough exercise?
- Is everyone getting enough sleep?
Today’s families already have very busy schedules. Incorporating a healthy balance of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep into our daily lives is not about adding to our schedules but realigning them to better maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Pre-Kindergarten at Trinity recognises the importance of play as a natural activity allowing the boys to learn as they make meaning of the world around them. Through play, our boys learn to represent their ideas in many forms as well as developing social skills by communicating, co-operating, sharing, caring and negotiating. Teachers in Pre-Kindergarten value, encourage, and participate in the daily play activities with the boys. Pre-Kindergarten at Trinity can make a positive difference, and you can read more about the benefits of Pre-Kindergarten here. Trinity boys transition into their Kindergarten year with the confidence, knowledge and understanding that only Pre-Kindergarten can provide.
For over a hundred years Trinity Grammar School has educated boys in mind, body and spirit. Fuelled by a pastorally aware culture with exceptionally high levels of individual student attention, we aim to know, understand and nurture every student to help them realise their potential, passions and purpose in life.
To find out why we are one of Australia’s leading schools for boys and to learn more about our Pre-Kindergarten programme, download our Pre-Kindergarten prospectus.