Educators know that children need active play in order
to develop naturally and be physically healthy. Sadly, more
children than ever are considered to be obese, facing the
danger of developing diabetes. Lifestyle choices that limit
the amount of childhood active play are the predominant
factors resulting in this alarming trend.
The Link between Active Play and Mental
Active play is made up of the wide variety of physical
activities that children naturally engage in during the
course of a normal day. These activities shift as
developmental markers are reached, but a short list
includes standing, crawling, rolling, swinging, running,
jumping, swimming, rollerblading and bike riding. Many
studies link the amount and quality of childhood active
play to both brain size and brain development.
The Modern Sedentary Lifestyle
Even if your children don't spend hours each day in the
coma-like trance brought on by watching television
programs, they likely spend excessive amounts of time
sitting in front of a computer screen playing video games.
These virtual games often substitute for active play with
friends in the neighborhood and at the park. The fact that
children are taught to use the home computer at younger
ages than ever before also contributes to them engaging in
less active playtime as they get older.
Unfortunately, it is a habit that perpetuates itself
into adulthood and is illustrated best by the image of a
white collar office worker spending eight hours a day
working at a computer.
Playing Actively is Critical for Motor Skills
Older children derive some benefit in terms of hand-eye
coordination from learning to move a computer mouse around
or handling a video game controller. Problems arise when
they spend too much time engaging exclusively in this type
Younger children, however, develop best when interacting
directly with their physical environment. From the infant
to the elementary school child, cognitive, social,
emotional and physical development are all directly related
to the amount of time the child spends engaged in active
play. Active play not only helps to develop motor skills,
but builds the small and large muscle groups needed to
maintain a healthy body.
Healthy Children, Healthy Adults
What is at stake here is not only the health of
children, but the health of the adults they will become.
Lifestyle habits are difficult to change, and a sedentary
child has a greater likelihood of becoming a sedentary
adult. Healthy adults need a minimum of 30 minutes of
cardiovascular exercise each day to help reduce the chances
of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and
non-hereditary diabetes. With so many adults working long
hours at sedentary jobs, establishing a healthy routine
that includes active play early in life is paramount to
maintaining optimum physical health into the adult
The nature of human development dictates that children
should be engaged in actively playing throughout their
days. Engaging in childhood activities and exercise fosters
every kind of child development, as well as maintains the
physical health of the individual.