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Keep your child active in their first year of school!

Keeping Your Child Active their first year of school.

Physical activity is important. Research has shown that exercise is beneficial for helping your child think, concentrate and solve problems, all of which are essential skills when it comes to learning.

At 6 years old, children have a wide range of physical skills. Some may show natural athleticism while others will work on accomplishing simple skills. As your child’s coordination and motor skills become more refined they will be able to engage in games like skipping, kicking a ball and playing chasey. Natural athleticism and the amount of physical activity your child does play a role in developing their physical abilities.

As their coordination, motor skills and ability to understand game rules continue to develop many 6-year-olds may also be interested in participating in team sports such as soccer, cricket, cheerleading, basketball, netball or football. Children can learn about the value of practice, setting goals, meeting challenges, teamwork and being fair by participating in team sports. If they’re not interested in traditional sports, depending on your child’s interests you could encourage them to try activities like karate, fencing, golf, skateboarding, tennis or dance.

Your child’s fine motor coordination will also continue to develop. Your child will become more adept at drawing and writing letters, and their pictures and stories will look much more recognisable and legible. They will become more skilled at using tools such as scissors, and will be able to perform tasks such as tying shoelaces or buttoning buttons much better.

Things you can do at home

Do things together with your child; this will get everyone moving and kids love to play with their parents.

Try to make family fitness outings part of your regular routine. Let your child and each family member take turns choosing an activity for these outings, for example: hiking, ice skating, or a trip down the local bike path – anything goes, as long as everyone can participate.

You could also try:

incorporating physical activity into your daily routine, for example walking the dog with your child after school or after dinner each night. Using things that your family already does, like sweeping the floors or gardening are other ways to keep your family active every day

allowing enough time for free play. Children burn off energy, develop their coordination and usually have fun when left to their own devices and will probably play actively without too much intervention on your part

keeping a variety of games and sports equipment on hand. These don’t have to be expensive; an assortment of balls, hula-hoops, and jump ropes can keep your child busy for hours

formal dance classes – these can help your child develop balance, coordination and strength. Some children also dance spontaneously when they hear music, though some may be self-conscious about this.

You can also take advantage of local playgrounds, sports fields or school grounds as an alternative venue for games or physical activity, especially if you don’t have a lot of space in your own back yard.

If your child has a chronic health condition or disability, they can still do some fitness activities. Some may need to be modified or adapted, and some may be too risky depending on your child’s condition. Consult your doctor about activities that are safe for your child.

Children who enjoy sports and exercise tend to stay active throughout their lives. And staying fit can help improve self-esteem, maintain a healthy weight, and decrease the risk of serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease later in life.

Being involved

Depending on your child’s interests and your family’s circumstances, after school activities vary enormously. They include things like learning another language, playing sport, craft activities, joining a scout troop, or playing an instrument.

Being involved in these activities has many potential benefits. It can help your child with their learning in school, give your child another group of friends and help their confidence and acceptance. However, there needs to be a balance between your child’s learning at school, the number of after school activities they are involved in, and having time to play and be themselves. This will be different for every child and every family.

Doing something new

By encouraging your child to explore something they haven’t tried before, there’s always the possibility of failure. But without risk there’s little opportunity for success. By letting your child safely experiment and resisting the urge to intervene you’ll build your child’s self-esteem better by balancing your need to protect them with their need to tackle new tasks.

Having choices and taking risks means that sometimes your child will make mistakes. This is a valuable lesson for your child and will help them learn about their limits, the world around them and give them the chance to discover what happens when things go wrong.

Check your local council, community centre, newspaper or school to see what activities are happening close to you.

Some activities to consider

Little Athletics – children between the ages of five and 15 years can register. Parents, grandparents and friends can also be involved by helping with various events.

Outside School Hours Care – all structured activities are built around an educational rationale that means your child is doing activities that are developmentally appropriate for their age and in line with the very latest research. As well as structured activities there is plenty of time to have fun and play with friends. Children have access to loads of equipment for sports, arts and crafts, drama, science, cooking, toys, games and dress ups.

Karate or tae kwon do – these activities require intense mental and physical involvement but they also give your child an opportunity to learn about their bodies, coordination skills and controlled movements, whilst having a lot of fun..

Scouting – scouting is a great activity for boys and girls. Scouting includes many of the elements that can help your child to focus, such as physical stimulation, highly structured activities that make use of various learning styles, consistent peer interaction, close adult supervision, competition and, most of all, fun.

Team sports – nearly any team sport – baseball, basketball, cheerleading, football and soccer – can be a good activity for your child. Be sure to choose something your child is really interested in because learning the rules, taking turns, cooperating with other kids as well as learning new skills, are all part of being a member of a team.

Learning a language – learning a language can help your child in all their learning, especially in reading and writing English.

Model building, carving, woodworking, or mechanical activities – most children love to solve problems or puzzles. Building models or making things out of wood or metal (with adult supervision) will help your child learn how to turn their ideas into reality. Successfully completing a project and having something solid and visible to show for it can be extremely rewarding to your child.

Swimming – learning to swim can be great fun, especially if you have a heated or indoor pool nearby.

Art classes or music – art and music can help your child express themselves. Just remember that it’s not about how well they draw, sing, or play an instrument; the most important thing is to have fun.

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