The importance of physical activity during social distancing

As a result of current social distancing guidelines, parents and children are spending more time than usual indoors.

To help families make the most of their time during this period, Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority has created a guide with tips and recommendations to help families across the UAE adhere to the current guidelines and encourage physical activity at home, keeping children aged 0 – 8-years-old active and happy.

The benefits of daily physical activity are boundless and contribute to childhood growth, development, maintaining a healthy and happy body, improving quality of sleep and concentration, social skills, balance and coordination.

Infants & Toddlers

For infants, 30 minutes (spread across the day) of supervised tummy time when the baby is awake and alert, until they can roll over independently. If at first your child is not happy with tummy time, it is important not to worry, instead, try again after a few days or shorten the amount of time.

Other tips include:

  • Encourage crawling and exploring
  • Stretching – place a favourite toy slightly out of reach
  • Clapping – infants will mimic your clapping movements
  • Games that involve pushing and pulling

For toddlers, 90 minutes of fun physical activity is recommended. Once a child has entered this stage of their life, it is time to baby proof the house and look at activities that are sure to involve walking, running, kicking and throwing, as this can help them develop their motor skills.

Examples of activities to keep a toddler engaged and moving include:

  • Chasing balloons encouraging them to keep the balloon in the air
  • Dancing to music
  • Throwing balls into a container whilst supervised

Pre Schoolers (3-5 years) & Children aged 5 and above

For children aged 3-8 years old, 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per day is recommended, including a variety of types of intensities to develop motor skills.

For preschoolers and above games to keep them active can include:

  • Freeze dance: Play fun music and when the music is paused children must freeze in their current position and hold until the music starts again: great for self-regulation
  • Hopscotch: For apartments with tiled floors, chalk out blocks on the floors or use tape for an indoor activity where they cannot hop outside the chalk or tape
  • Simon says: Give instructions such as ‘clap’, ‘jump on one leg’, ‘skip’, for them to follow but only when the phrase ‘Simon says’ is used, otherwise they are out
  • PE with Joe: The enormously popular free online P.E classes with Joe wicks ‘The Body Coach’, are a daily 30 minute live fun workout via YouTube that can be done by all the family (1pm UAE Time)
  • Scavenger hunts: Write down age appropriate clues and hide them around the house for the children to find, leading them to a prize
  • Create an indoor obstacle course: Include fun activities such as an egg and spoon race, walking with a balloon between their knees to the finish line, be blindfolded whilst trying to write their name and walking with a book on their head without dropping it.
  • Animal races: Frog squats, bear walks, duck waddles
  • Hide & Seek: An old classic but always fun; Set older children the task of counting to 100 when they’re task to seek and getting creative with their hiding places when its their turn to hide

It is important for parents to remember that physical activity is equally as important as down time from tablets, phones and TV. These areas help children switch off, improve mental health and wellbeing as well as learn new skills and hobbies.

Children represent the future. Encourage, support and guide them.

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