By Lyndsey Frey
Amy Chand, exercise physiologist for Akron Children’s Healthy and active life program, says that getting kids active and outdoors isn’t just a great way to reverse those frowns, it’s important for their health, too.
“Children are naturally drawn to physical play outdoors,” explains Chand. “Staying active is important for a child’s development. Exercise through play helps children build muscle strength and coordination, increase flexibility, and develop fine and gross motor skills.
Plus, staying in shape can improve self-esteem, help maintain a healthy weight, and lower the risk of serious illnesses, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Not to mention, outdoor play is vital for vitamin D absorption, Chand says.
“As Ohioans, we have low levels of vitamin D because we’re not exposed to light most of the time,” she says. “Vitamin D is crucial for the good health and development of a toddler by helping to build strong teeth and bones.”
So get your little ones off the couch this summer and enjoy the great outdoors. It is a matter of their health.
Chand offers five active outdoor activities to keep your little one moving and smiling – maybe even laughing – all summer long. You don’t have to travel far. These games can be played directly in your own garden.
1. The caterpillar hopscotch
In your driveway or sidewalk, use chalk to draw a large circle, about two or three feet in diameter, with a caterpillar face and antennae. Then draw at least 10 smaller circles to create a giant caterpillar. Using a stopwatch, challenge your little one to run from one end of the caterpillar to the other. They can also walk or jump from circle to circle.
Number the circles and vary their colors for a teaching aid to teach your child number recognition and colors. For example, encourage your little creature to jump from the red circle to the blue.
2. Obstacle challenge
Create an obstacle course using cones, hoops and other household items. Let your creativity, along with your child’s interests and abilities, be the guide. For example, children could ride or jump in hoops, run around and between cones, or crawl under a row of kitchen chairs. For toddlers, keep it simple by focusing on one activity at a time. Have fun taking the first turn by demonstrating how to do the obstacle course.
3. Treasure hunt in the yard
Start by cutting out fun shapes, such as circles, hearts, butterflies, or caterpillars, using colorful construction paper. Your little one can even color or decorate the shapes. Then “hide them” in your garden. Make sure they are mostly visible and accessible. Then have your little one research and find the shapes using a basket or butterfly net. You can use a stopwatch to make it even more exciting.
4. Beach ball throw
Using a permanent marker, write a different movement, such as jumping, dancing or walking backwards, on each color of a beach ball. Then, standing in front of each other, throw or roll the ball back and forth. Do the color activity of your toddler’s hands when they catch the beach ball.
Visit akronchildrens.org for more information