Physical Fitness in Infants and Toddlers
In the last decade, while the relationship between physical activity and health in adults and older children has been highlighted by various national health organizations and government agencies, the importance of physical activity for infants, toddlers and preschoolers have not been addressed until now.
"Adopting a physically active lifestyle early in life increases the likelihood that infants and young children will learn to move skillfully," said Dr. Clark. "Promoting and fostering enjoyment of movement and motor skill confidence and competence at an early age will help to ensure healthy development and later participation in physical activity."
There are five guidelines for each age group and they are intended to answer questions relative to the kind of physical activity, the environment and the individuals responsible for facilitating the activity. Part of the infant's day should be spent with a caregiver or parent who provides systematic opportunities for planned physical activity. These experiences should incorporate a variety of baby games such as peekaboo and pat-a-cake and sessions in which the child is held, rocked and carried to new environments.
Five Guidelines For Infants
Guideline 1. Infants should interact with parents and/or caregivers in daily physical activities that are dedicated to promoting the exploration of their environment.
Guideline 2. Infants should be placed in safe settings that facilitate physical activity and do not restrict movement for prolonged periods of time.
Guideline 3. Infants' physical activity should promote the development of movement skills.
Guideline 4. Infants should have an environment that meets or exceeds recommended safety standards for performing large muscle activities.
Guideline 5. Individuals responsible for the well-being of infants should be aware of the importance of physical activity and facilitate the child's movement skills.
For toddlers, basic movement skills such as running, jumping, throwing and kicking do not just appear because a child grows older, but emerge from an interaction between hereditary potential and movement experience. These behaviors are also clearly influenced by the environment. For instance, a child who does not have access to stairs may be delayed in stair climbing and a child who is discouraged from bouncing and chasing balls may lag in hand-eye coordination.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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