Sabrina Kerr, Advanced Health Improvement Practitioner – Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and A Better Start Southend

National Play Day

Coordinated by Play England in England, National Play Day (1st August 2018) is the national day for play in the UK. It is a celebration not only of children’s right to play, but it also is a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children’s lives.

It has well been established that physical activity in childhood has a strong positive relationship with reducing the onset of obesity and other chronic diseases in adulthood. However, until recently, little has been understood about the importance of physical activity in early years (aged 0-5 years) and there is need for more in-depth research in this area.

At present, evidence suggests that physical activity should be introduced to babies from birth to improve motor skills, bone and muscular development and promote active habitual behaviours. In the UK, physical activity guidelines detail the minimum level of physical activity required in early years for health benefits as:

  • Babies (0-12 months – click for resources
    Floor and water-based activities such as ‘Tummy Time’, swimming and reaching for objects should be encouraged from birth with minimal time spent in carriers, seats or baby bouncers.
  • Toddlers (1-3 years – click for resources)
    For children who are walking, they should be physically active for at least 180 minutes (3 hours) per day. This should include structured and unstructured activities, of any intensity and movement of large muscle group, i.e. climbing, jumping, balancing or riding a bike.
  • Preschool (3-5 years)
    All under 5s should be encouraged to be physically active throughout the day and spend less time doing sedentary activities such as watching TV, playing computers or in sitting in buggies.

1 in 5 children in the UK are overweight or obese by the time they start primary school, and this increases to 1 in 3 children by the time they leave primary school. By encouraging positive health behaviours and active play in early years, we are able to help impact on obesity levels and many other health outcomes of our young children before they are identified during in the National Child Measurement Programme.

Here in Southend, at the children’s centres run by our partners Family Action, children are encouraged to explore new experiences through sessions like messy play and within crèches for courses, encouraging children to take risks to learn new skills and improve their physical development in a safe and welcoming environment. Children’s physical development is also supported through a variety of sessions such as stay and plays, baby groups, cooking and encouraging children to access the garden all year round. For more information on summer sessions in the children’s centres in Southend click here or dial 01702 220810 (option 1).

Additionally, at the ABSS Healthy Families (HENRY) project, for example, every session includes 30 minutes of family time that encourages play and physical activity. A whole module is also dedicated to showing parents ideas for active play to help children learn, develop and stay happy. For more information on the Southend Healthy Families (HENRY) programme, please contact Patrizia (Patrizia.pessenda-garcia@henry.org.uk / 07519109875) or Carole (Carole.Keep@henry.org.uk / 07858294972).

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