Promoting kids’ health and activity throughout the school year
After weeks of summer holidays filled with picnics, parks and playtime, the days are beginning to draw in and the words “back to school” are pervading homes across the UK. Whether you’re wishing away the holidays or dreading the back to school blues, the new term brings with it some more serious issues for families to consider.
With kids heading back to the classroom and less time to play, what impact does this have on kids’ mental and physical health?
Drop in physical activity
Despite government initiatives encouraging more activity within the school day, according to recent research, less than a fifth of school age children get the recommended level of exercise by the time they leave primary school. From the age brackets of 5-7 to 11-12, there is a whopping 39 per cent drop in kids being moderately active for at least an hour a day.
This is not helped by the fact that in their free time kids are spending more and more time on devices: a recent survey reported by CNN revealed that kids under nine spend more than two hours a day on screens.
What does this mean?
Scientific research has shown that this is not an issue to be taken lightly. According to the organisation Kids Health, physical activity at a young age is important in the formation of children’s bones. The impact of weight-bearing during sports and other activities stimulates new tissue to grow, improving bone density. And it’s not just physical implications.
The sedentary nature of going back to school and not having as much time to play can have a negative impact on a child’s mental wellbeing and even brain development. This is because physical activity increases blood flow, which can boost grey matter in the areas of the brain that are important for cognitive skills and overall brain performance.
Exercise also releases chemicals called endorphins which are often labelled ‘feel good’ hormones, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. With this in mind…exercise and active play can act as the perfect antidote to any stress or anxiety generated over the course of the school day.
Tackling the situation: three top tips
The good news is: there’s no need to despair! There are lots of ways to ensure your child is getting the activity and playtime they need outside of the classroom. Encouraging your child to be active doesn’t need to be expensive or time consuming. Here are some quick and easy tips to help improve physical and mental activity around the home:
1. Give your kids control!
Heading back to school means a lot of structure for kids – which can make them feel as though they have less control. This lack of control in turn can trigger anxiety and stress, according to a leading family relationships specialist. Why not put the power in their hands: whether that’s tasking them to organise a treasure hunt for the family or giving them responsibility to water the garden one evening? Not only will it enable them to regain control but setting them an active task can get them moving too!
2. Make the most of small spaces
Getting your kids active doesn’t necessarily mean heading to an athletics track or football pitch. Even if you have limited space in your house and you don’t have a garden, you can still get dancing! Dancing not only burns calories and releases endorphins but it has also been proven to improve memory helping your kids to remember everything they’ve learned during the busy school day.
3. Make it a game!
Games are a great way to get your child engaged in exercise, ensuring they are having fun whilst staying active! Hide and seek, a game of tag and ‘follow the leader’ are all great options to play around the house. Encouraging play has many proven benefits beyond just physical activity: a study by The University of Cambridge found that play has strong links to intellectual performance and emotional wellbeing too.
This back to school season, as well as stocking up on stationary, it’s time to get a plan in place to boost kids’ health mentally and physically. A new term can mark a positive new chapter: the perfect time to build an active and healthy future for you and your family.