As we approach one year of restricted measures and lockdowns, in this series of blogs, we are looking at the developmental changes our children will have experienced during this extended time at home and the importance to keep moving for their emotional and physical development. Here we focus on toddlers to school age children, from three to five years.
In the first five years of life, humans go through dramatic changes in their physical, social and cognitive skills. By the time they start school, children will be able to walk, run, jump, skip, hop, as well as manipulate objects such as balls, bats, forks and pens. They will also have increased their body mass by 500%.
This is such a significant period of rapid change for children where they are developing the array of motor skills necessary to perform physical activity. Motor skills categories include locomotion, object control, co-ordination and balance. Competence in these motor skills by the age of three to five years has shown to positively relate to key health markers and adherence to physical activity later in life.
Time spent outside, free physical play without restraints, playing with older children and daily play with age-appropriate toys all contribute to improved development. What’s more, increased physical activity in this age group has been found to have a positive relationship with cardiometabolic health indicators, and bone mineral density, as well as a negative relationship with obesity. There is also emerging evidence that organised sports positively influence three to five year old children, psychologically, emotionally and socially.
Overall, ensuring that a child up to the age of five has the freedom to play and a variety of stimulation – both organised and unstructured – will allow the child to develop a well-rounded set of motor skills, and subsequently assist in adherence to physical activity in later childhood and adolescence.
Click HERE for fun ways to help children be active at home and develop healthy habits – whatever their age.