I always worry about whether my toddler is getting enough exercise and fresh air. It really makes you think, with over 1,000 children being referred to hospital as a result of obesity, and 1 in 3 children between the ages of 2 and 10 being overweight, it really is a terrifying reality that should not be the case. Reid is such a big eater so I worry about him gaining too much weight. Up until now his weight has increased at a very steady pace and he is a healthy and happy little boy, which is great. Things, however, can quickly change if you don’t act whilst they are young. During the Winter months he started going outside less and less and spent more time inside doing his favourite thing, watching TV. It is my own fault for not getting him out enough but, as a full time mum who is also running her own business, it’s so easy to let things slip, especially when the weather is cold, wet and windy. You start using the car more to travel short distances and most days you find activities to do inside the house, to avoid having to brave the outdoors. It really is easily done and you tell yourself that once the weather picks up you will do more.
In the Summer we are always out of the house, even if it is just playing in the garden. I like to work on my laptop out there whilst watching him play. At least if I have work to do then he isn’t cooped up inside the house and we are both getting fresh air. One of the best things we bought (although not great for the grass) was his trampoline. He can jump on it for ages and it’s great for toddlers with the net surrounding as he just stays in one place and is safely, having fun whilst doing exercise. It is something he can do on his own or with me and we both have the best time together on it. We also have a playhouse with a slide which is great fun and he will repeatedly climb up and slide down. We are limited with outdoor play equipment we have in the garden for him to play with. This is where playgrounds are handy but, unfortunately. there aren’t many for younger children within walking distance to us.
Reid started nursery last October which was a big change for us but something I was really happy about. The main reason I chose this particular nursery is because of their strong belief in the children spending as much time as possible in the outdoors. Their outdoor play area is an amazing place for the children to explore and have fun. They encourage all play, whether it is on their pirate ship climbing frame or just running around with wheelbarrows filling them with leaves and mud, they always look like they are having the best time. They understand the importance of early years play and how it aids a child’s development. After speaking with Reid’s teacher, I have found out that 99% of the time he is outside, whatever the weather. It makes sense why he is always so exhausted after nursery as he must be tiring himself out running around in the fresh air all day. It makes me smile that he wants to be outside so much and that I know at least once every day Mon – Fri he is getting a huge amount of exercise
Schools seem to be doing a lot more now too, or at least have a lot more help. An example is a PE and Sport premium which is available to all schools throughout the UK and can be used to invest in professional development for teachers and for facilities to improve PE and Sport. Also, educational playground equipment that really makes a huge difference when it comes to a child’s development. Many nurseries and schools seem to be installing the latest outdoor play equipment as they are realising the benefits of children spending a lot of time playing outside. ESP who is the leading provider of outdoor playground equipment to Schools in the UK, together with Roehampton University carried out some research in to the effects of installing Multi-Skills Zones and professionally training staff in schools. They found that there was a 7.5% increase in observed physical activity levels, a 4.9 minute increase of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day and girls who were originally lower showed an increase in their physical activity levels. I feel like since Reid has started nursery I am already seeing the positive effect it is having on his development. He lights up when he tells me about the fun he had playing outside with his friends and he really is learning so much!
Where we live now is a brand new housing estate and we have been told that they are building a big, ‘Green Belt’ area all through the estate. The green belt will feature various things to encourage people living in the estate to get together outdoors. Some of the features include a communal BBQ area, an orchard and a play area. They are currently building the area but we are so excited for this. We will have a beautiful and fun communal area right on our doorstep that we can all enjoy. It’s great that more is being done to encourage children and families to spend more time in the outdoors. As I already explained, it is so easy to get into bad habits when life gets hectic. So, finding out that things are actually being done to encourage something so great is genuinely good to hear.
Myself and my partner made a promise recently to make some small but important changes with regards to our current routine. Mainly on a weekend we can find ourselves not making the most of our days together and somehow we still end up working on laptops without a full day for a break. We made the decision that Sunday’s would be for getting out and about, with time away from our laptops, away from the TV and basically just leaving the house. Whether it is a long walk with our son on his balance bike or a long walk to go get ice cream and a drink at the local pub or go swimming as a family, at our gym that we pay for and don’t use enough! Whatever we do, as long as we are being active and are getting fresh air that is all that matters! I want to set a good example for Reid and I want to share his love of the outdoors with him. I want him to learn new things and I want him to simply enjoy being a child! I don’t think I will ever stop worrying about whether he is active enough so all I can do is try and make sure I give him enough opportunities to be!
Do you worry about the amount of exercise and fresh air your little ones get? Do you have a routine or good habit that you do to make sure they get out and about? Let me know in a comment below.