You already know that physical activity is critical for children. Choose My Plate notes that children and adolescents (6-17 years old) need at least an hour or more of activity per day, ranging from moderate to vigorous intensity. Exercise improves their cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure; it helps ensure proper bone and muscle development while sharpening hand-eye coordination. Besides the physical health benefits, exercise can give children a better outlook on life and enhance their self-esteem.
Finding ways for children to engage in such activity can be tricky, though. What can you provide them with that will make your children want to play so vigorously? Are there ways to stimulate their social skills through playtime? Enrolling them in sports is an option for older children, but toddlers and babies need other methods to engage their bodies. The answer to the question is toys.
Why toys are essential
Toys are excellent vehicles for facilitating physical activity. Children can jump rope with friends, run around with fake shopping carts, or climb playhouses. Participating in this kind of play cultivates their gross motor skills (that is to say, their ability to perform basic movements, like walking, running, and jumping; object-control large motor skills include throwing, kicking, and catching), and therefore their confidence in moving about the world.
Toys that necessitate exercise also foster intellectual abilities and emotional health. Regarding the later, Parents.com notes:
“Exercise, according to one theory, releases beta-endorphin, a natural substance in the body that its hundreds of times more potent than morphine. Another theory points to serotonin as the cause of the exercise high. Increased levels of serotonin in the central nervous system are associated with feelings of well-being, heightening of appetite, and lessening of mental depression.”
Toys are more than tools for entertainment. They give children ways to be healthy in more ways than one—and they make the process enjoyable. Whether you are shopping at a local toy store or Jizels, here are a few recommendable toys that encourage physical activity:
Some toys are more appropriate for children of different ages than others. For instance, as strenuous as playing basketball can be, you are not going to buy a basketball for a baby. Instead, you would be smart to gift them something like a wagon, a Fisher-Price Activity Walker, or a VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker for babies learning to take their first steps. Rolling a ball around on the floor and encouraging a child to crawl after it or exploring a colorful playmat are also potential options.
Toddlers and preschoolers
Toddlers and preschoolers are capable of more complex movements, but you still don’t want to give them anything too dangerous yet. Toys like rideable vehicles (such as low-to-the-ground fire engines or tricycles), hula hoops, bouncy balls, small playground slides (which are climbable structures), scooters, and play tunnels can strengthen children’s muscles and improve their coordination. Even rocking vehicles (like horses and chairs) can teach kids balance.
If you trust your slightly older children to handle objects like Wiffle bats and foam balls, you can also begin to buy them safer versions of sports equipment. Floor hockey with softer pucks and frisbee games are potential fun activities you can play together.
Grade-schoolers are capable of handling a bit more strenuous activity. Nothing beats a free game of basketball in the neighborhood, but a fun accompanying toy could be a ShotTracker that counts attempted shots, both successful and unsuccessful. Children are also often fond of throwing things at each other, so you can provide a safe reason for them to do so with Diggin Active Dodge Tag. Trampolines are also excellent ways for children to exercise their imaginations while burning some calories.
Going beyond toys
There are other ways to encourage physical activity in children without sports, classes, or toys. Mayo Clinic suggests:
“Get creative as you search for activities your child enjoys. If your child is artistically inclined, consider a nature hike to collect leaves and rocks for use in a collage. If your child likes to climb, head for the nearest jungle gym or climbing wall. If your child loves reading, walk or bike to a local library for a book. Or simply turn on your child’s favorite music and dance in the living room.”
Physical activity has its personal health benefits, but it’s also an opportune time for you to bond with the children you love and inspire a fondness for healthy living that will carry with them into adulthood.
Exercise is essential for children, but fortunately, it can take all kinds of forms. What toys are you thinking about giving the children in your life that will encourage physical activity?