It’s never too early to start creating a healthy, active lifestyle for a child. Early childhood is the best time to teach kids important values that they’ll carry over into adulthood, and physical education is one of the easiest places to start. The younger a child is the more receptive he is to new ideas, especially healthy ones that don’t yet carry the taboos that many children come to associate with healthy foods and physical fitness.
Babies love physical activity. The first year of life is full of physical milestones as they learn to roll over, sit up, crawl, and walk. Long before a baby begins to speak he excels at physical fitness. There’s no better time to begin implementing a physical education curriculum at home or in a day-care setting.
As toddlers, children use physical activity and gestures to communicate with their friends, siblings, and adult caregivers as they’re learning to talk. Every developing toddler loves a physical challenge and will spend many blissful hours mastering his physical skills any place he can. At the same time, toddlers watch their parents and caregivers in awe, yearning to do everything that they do. There’s no better time to turn off the TV and walk or bike your kids to the park.
By the time a child begins preschool, he’s already formed countless likes and dislikes, but is still open to trying anything new and interesting, in addition to being drawn to familiar activities. At this age physical activity is still exciting and non-threatening to a child.
Children who learn to love, choose, and prefer physical activity will make healthy choices by picking movement and fitness based activities over sedentary ones. That’s why a preschool physical education program is essential for healthy early childhood development. And if parents aren’t already reinforcing these activities at home, preschool PE becomes even more essential to their long-term health.
A preschool or other early childhood physical education program may include:
- Music-based activities that ask children to respond to rhythm and beat through movement and physical activity
- Games that develop cognitive skills through physical fitness
- Activities that are light to moderate for promoting effective warm-up and cool-down periods in a fun environment
- A mix of indoor and outdoor based physical activities
- Physical education ideas for the cognitive classroom
- Real-world solutions for small spaces, large groups, and creating or locating equipment.
Kids who learn to love physical fitness perform better in school, have good social skills, learn to challenge themselves, develop plans and methods for meeting both physical and mental challenges, and carry these values into adulthood where they are passed on to their own children.