Having worked in physical activity and health, particularly for children, for quite a number of years now I knew that when I became a mum making sure my baby/infant/toddler/child was physically active was always going to be important to me.
Maybe because of where I work I know what the guidelines are (180 minutes of moderate and/or vigorous physical activity a day), and maybe because it’s something I’m massively conscious about, but I am always aware of making sure my son is as active as possible because being physical active every day is important for the healthy growth and development of babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.
My son (who is now a rip roaring toddler of 18 months) is probably active for 70% of his day (when he’s not eating or sleeping!) but I’ve always prided myself on the fact he doesn’t sit and watch TV (I’m putting off those horrible kids shows as long as I can!!). He goes to nursery 2 days a week where they say he’s constantly on the move (climbing and moving furniture are his two favourite things), we do tumble tots, swimming, soft play (which honestly isn’t as bad as some people say) visits to the farm, chasing round the house, playing cars, chasing our poor cats.
You name it, we probably do it. In honesty, when you initially hear 3 hours of physical activity a day it can be quite overwhelming, but in reality (at least for me) it’s not hard to get an under 5, whose choice of activity and behaviour is entirely in your own hands, doing three hours of activity (standing, playing, climbing, running) a day.
Last week I visited a new soft play centre, it was small and enclosed so my son couldn’t run off (much) but him and his little friend needed help at the top of the slides and actually it’s fun to chase them round and play. I had on my Fitbit (out of habit rather than interest) and at the end of what I can only describe as non-stop chasing and climbing, up and down slides, round ball pits and crawling through tunnels – I for one was exhausted!! I looked at my Fitbit expectantly hoping there would be some acknowledgment of my 60 minutes, of what I thought, high intensity exercise, and there was…..nothing!! Apparently I’d been sedentary for that portion of the day (the reliability of fitness monitors is a topic for another day!) So whilst the 3 hours of physical activity seems easy enough for a very active toddler, perhaps that comes at the expense of my own physical activity? Taking heart in the fact it had said I’d done 23 flights of stairs I consoled myself with a coffee in the cafe so my fellow mummy and I could catch our breath and try to have a grown up conversation.
Toddlers can’t drive themselves to activities, they can’t choose to go to the park, it’s up to us as parents to give our children the opportunity to be as active as they can in as many different ways as possible so that in the future when they do have the ability to choose we hope that they will choose to continue on with this activity.
Looking forward I know that as soon as Henry becomes more independent and goes off to school and plays with friends the amount of physical activity he does will be less in my hands or under my control, but for now I hope to instil in him a love of physical activity and make healthy choices for him in the hope that I can encourage him to continue running around as much as he can, but perhaps chase someone other than the poor cat!