by Auntie Em
Did you overindulge like I did? Well, now I am paying the price for it with pants that won’t button at the waist. Or skirts that fit too snug around the hips for comfort or good taste.
But, I am not alone. The average American gains about a pound of weight celebrating the holidays. And, believe me, I saw equally as many little kids as adults eating way too much during the season of festive meals, with an abundance of sweets.
I suppose we adults look the other way because it is a special time to be cheerful. Plus, we have to be polite to relatives, neighbors and friends who want us to chow down on their homemade cookies, cakes, pies and eggnog.
Well folks, it’s a New Year, and the food orgy is over.
Now it’s time for parents to encourage their young children to exercise, and to engage in physical activities with them as a family. This will help adults, as well as toddlers.
The obesity epidemic is reaching down to the sandbox as kids are less and less active, and they become overweight at younger ages. In L.A. County, about 22 percent of 4-year-olds are overweight, according to First 5 LA research.
The overweight problem comes from an imbalance of calories eaten and burned up. Experts believe the main cause is that children are not getting enough exercise, raising concerns over their weight, future disease risk and sense of well-being.
Learning to maintain both physical and mental health is one of the most important things that a parent or caregiver can teach a child. What’s more, many studies suggest overall fitness affects everything from a child’s behavior to his ability to focus on tasks for successful learning.
Regular physical activity helps young children build strong bones, muscles, healthy hearts, lungs and arteries and improves coordination, balance, posture and flexibility. It also reduces the risks of many chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, and helps children maintain a healthy weight — one of First 5 LA’s strategic goals.
According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), a nonprofit organization that sets the standard for best practices in quality physical education and sports, all children from birth to age 5 should engage daily in physical activity that promotes movement skillfulness and the foundations of health-related fitness.
Did you know that your preschooler needs a minimum of two hours of physical activity daily – including one hour structured (adult-led) and an hour unstructured (free play)? They should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time, except when sleeping.
First 5 LA suggests the following exercises for toddlers to get them moving on their feet and having fun, especially after all of that unhealthy eating during the holidays:
- Place a piece of masking tape on the floor.
- Walk together along the “tightrope.”
- Try to stay on the line. Walk backward, forward and sideways.
- Result: Helps develop balance, exercises foot muscles.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Have your child follow your movements.
- Move into a crouching position.
- Stretch slowly upwards until you are standing. Stretch your hands over your head.
- Lower your hands slowly to your sides.
- Return to a crouching position and repeat.
- Result: Stretches the entire body.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes
- Stand facing your child.
- Slowly call out the names of each body part in the title, asking your child to touch each body part as you name it.
- Once your child does this successfully, mix up the order of the body parts.
- Quicken your pace.
- Result: Helps your child identify body parts. Also helps with flexibility and understanding the concepts of up, down, low and high.
Auntie Em wants you to keep the big and little bodies in your family moving and engaged in exercise. I promise to start as well so we can all feel better, and stay healthier.
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