Let's examine why this is important. Researchers tell us that frequent exercise is necessary for developing bones. Additionally, aerobic exercise helps the heart muscle. We can't forget that exercise also encourages good mental health. These are all reasons we should integrate large muscle play into our daily activities.
The research shows that at least one hour of moderate or vigorous activities should be a part of a child's day. This includes climbing on play structures, reaching hand-over-hand on outdoor equipment, or crawling through tunnels. While these ideas assume you have access to a safe and well-constructed playground, there are other activities that can be done without expensive structures.
You can encourage a rowdy game of tag, set up a simple obstacle course, draw a line in the sand or mulch and have children jump back and forth over the line. These are all fun activities that are made even more entertaining when you participate. I remember playing tag with my students. It had the benefit of encouraging everyone to run and laugh plus it gave me needed exercise, too! We all felt better after playing together.
Encourage families to participate in exercise, too. Dr. Stephanie Walsh, the medical director of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, notes that not everyone lives in a safe neighborhood. She suggests that families create obstacle courses in their homes. These allow children to climb, crawl, or even jump. She says that if families take walks together, this may not always "count" as vigorous enough exercise for developing bones and muscles. Why not have children run in place or skip and jump as adults walk? This can make the activity meet the needs of a young child.
While we are on the subject, we would be remiss if we didn't discuss the unfortunate trend of eliminating or shortening recess time in public schools. Preschool teachers can help educate families about the importance of play time. Everyone can then advocate for outdoor experiences in the school day. When children do not get this "release time" it can lead to many problems. When children do not get a break, it can result in students who have trouble concentrating on "work." It is especially important that recess not be taken away for a child who has not completed his or her assignments. Often these children especially need the time to run, jump, and shout.
So - let's celebrate recess and play!
NAEYC - 2.K.01.
Head Start - I. A. & B.