PARENTING

13 Reasons to Introduce your Toddler to Physical Fitness

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The 1st time ever I SAW a fitness gym was when I was 24years. The 1st time my daughter SAW it when she was 2. At 5 years my daughter has been to a Live game of Basketball when I did so now at 34 years. Neither have I ‘seen’ a stadium ever before.

I haven’t tumbled till date and she does. She knows so many stretches, body exercises which I haven’t seen, heard, known, or done. Although I was lucky to have a great personal trainer from age 24 to 30, yet, coming to USA, I understood sports and physical fitness in a new way. In India, there is little awareness of how important physical arts is, esp. among the lower middle class + resources are limited and costly for parents who value it.

My daughter began Martial Arts at 4 years of age. I must admit that we have been lucky to have found great instructors for her. She is not very sports inclined but she has grown into it in the last one year. The amount of confidence and growth I have seen in her is beyond explanation.

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Advantage of Introducing Toddlers/Children to Sports and Physical Fitness:

Creates Body Awareness: By moving our body in different and challenging ways on a regular basis, we learn to ‘understand’ our body. This creates more physical awareness and strengthens one’s sense organs. I grew up in a culture and country where the focus on the mind was a lot more and even more than the mind – the brain which is different from the mind. I learnt little about my body, I loved it less, I knew it less, I understood it even lesser!
Boosts Self-confidence: All mind and no body is an irrational focus in life. In India, there is a lot of importance to academics but is not balanced out with enough sports or physical education. Even when I played a lot of throwball and handball in school, I never learnt the warm ups they do here. I have never done push ups for a sports warm up. Never knew what is kick-boxing, pilates, or zumba.  I’ve never jumped over or climbed over a wall or a fence. Being able to move our body in unique and challenging ways inculcates a lot of self-confidence!
Facilitates Self-Love: There is no doubt that being physically fit and knowing the tricks of the game makes us feel good. Sports and Exercise has that ‘feel good factor’ which you want your kids to ‘stuff’ in their subconscious early on in life. Early learnings are the best learnings because they get submerged quickly into the subconscious mind as a ‘way of life’. Creating that feel good factor as a way of life in early childhood means GIFTING them with a Life-Long Skill of Loving Themselves

– Stress Buster: Exercising gets our brain to release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that make us feel more positive, feel good, and reduce our negative feelings. Let us admit it that children go through their own kind of stress. They have several physical changes to adapt to and on top of that, they have to keep up with our ‘crap!’ L-O-L. How many times in a day do we INSTRUCT kids what to do and not do; how many times do we throw our anger and tantrums at them? Besides us, they have school challenges to cope up with. I empathize with kids for sure!

–  Easy to Train: Kids naturally move around a lot. They have supple bodies. This makes training their bodies a lot easier. The younger the age, the better the outcome. Professional training ensures that they get age appropriate exercises to build on.

Self-Protection: Self-defense techniques imparts skills for self-protection useful at any point of time. Unlike the belief I had, at least by witnessing her Taekwondo class, I realize, it has several elements of sports embedded in it. On the other hand, I believe, even if children were to learn any other sport, they would have an advantage in self-protection over someone who doesn’t. Regular and long-term sports training, creates a sense of ‘flexibility and quickness’ of both the body and the mind – a skill that can come handy when one needs to self-protect.

Builds on a Possible Future: We may introduce our children to sports just for the love of or benefit of sports however, children may develop a deep connection with it. It could create the stage for a future in The Sports Field or expose them to early skills to be used later in inter-collegiate sports. Several colleges and universities also have extra credits for students who play sports. There is really nothing to lose here!

Sharper Mind: The body and the intellect are closely connected. The reason why regular exposure to sports improves on concentration, focus, and memory is because it requires us to have CONSTANT PRESENCE OF MIND to indulge in any physical exercise. Can we close our eyes for 2 split seconds when jumping, running, tumbling? We must be conscious of every action, every landing, every move and this strengthens the brain muscles which comes to great advantage in Academics!

Healthier Body: I doubt I need to write more about this. We all know the health benefits of sports and physical fitness. There is no doubt, no two ways about it!

Remember, children differ in their liking for sports. One child may like basketball, another tennis even when both are equally sporty by nature. Sometimes it requires ‘trial and error’ to different kinds of sports. Honestly, I forced her into Martial Arts and now she loves it a lot! Part of the reason is also because she loves The Energy of the place she goes to – the instructors, the teachers, the method of teaching. Make your efforts to discover what your child will enjoy. Do not presume or jump to conclusions too quickly. It took my daughter a good 3 months to begin liking it and now she doesn’t want to be off it.

Family Bonding: Sports can be a great way to have fun with family. My daughter thoroughly enjoys our baseball games in the backyard or simple catch and throw. Best part is that it requires little equipment and space, can be played indoors and outdoors and creates some unique memories of happiness.

Special Needs Kids or Special Skill Set: Specific sports are excellent for Special Needs kids like those who have ADHD, ADD, Autism, etc. They help in increasing focus and concentration which is one of the most important skill these children must build for healthier functioning or to cope better. Children also learn to Solve Problem and work in groups while playing sports. As adults we know how important it is to have skills to Work well in Teams. Your career in IT, as Teacher, at home within the family – all of it requires problem resolution by working in harmony with other individuals. Learning to balance our needs with others, solve problems effectively, and create healthy win/win solutions is what Sports implicitly promotes.

Provides Opportunity to Socialize: There are several sports that promote group involvement. When kids meet other kids they learn to interact, to greet, meet, adjust to other personalities. This is a skill we need at every stage of life. Going to school, going to work, staying home with family, love relationships later in life and making and keeping up with friendships is all about being ‘Social’. Socializing skills are intertwined with Self-Confidence.

A Competitive Spirit: Sports builds that competitive spirit which we want to have in today’s world. The aim is not to create an attitude of ‘Rat Race’ but to develop a Love for Healthy Competition, a Love for Winning and also the Grace of Losing Humbly. Sports teaches it all. Who knew that playing sports for extended childhood hours would help You in your field of marketing, insurance, IT, selling, etc.?!

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Images Source: Google Images

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Parent-Edge Magazine Articles by me

Children and Nature

This is a Re-post of my article from ParentEdge magazine http://parentedge.in/teaching-your-children-about-the-natural-world/2/

Note that this article has been edited.

Teaching your children about the natural world


animalsWe introduce our kids to some common animals at a very young age. Which child will not know Cat, Dog, Monkey, Lion and birds like Crow, Pigeon, or Parrots? However, our children are not exposed to a wider range of the natural living world. How many children know Seagull, Vulture, Yak, Mongoose, Hyrax, or Wildebeest at an age of 3, 4, or even 9?

The activities I list below will open up a new world to your children and increase their knowledge of the animal kingdom. You can add other learning to these with Phonics and Alphabets as well.

Age: 6+

These activities are designed for any child who can independently cut, glue, converse, and has a basic understanding of the living world around us. Alternatively, parents can conduct this activity for their toddlers or preschoolers.

You need:

  1. A large flat surface to work on: like the table or the floor.
  2. Print outs of several insects – uncut sheet: check image below for some of the insect names.
  3. Print outs of several animals – each animal cut into a square card. Make sure you have a variety of animal types like ones that live in the cold, in tropical or warm areas, mammals, non-mammals, etc. You may choose to keep the sheet uncut if you wish for the kids to do it.
  4. A pair of scissors per child.
  5. Glue stick per child.
  6. Markers and crayons for decoration.

ACTIVITY ONE – INSECT GARDEN

  1. Introduce children to all the insects you have on the sheet/s. You may share some fun facts about each insect at this point.
  2. Inform the kids that they are going to make an insect garden of their own, the way they like it. Show them an example from the image below and mention that different children make it in different ways and they are all ‘okay’. There is no one way to make it.
  3. Have children cut out all the insects. If you notice in the picture, I did not have insects printed in an aligned manner. This means it wasn’t as simple as cutting them into squares. Children had to work hard to cut around rounded areas without cutting into the next image. This helps increase attention, motor movements, eye-brain-hand co-ordination, and overall practice!

Allow them to stick their insects on a blank, white page to create their unique ‘Insect Farm’ or ‘Insect Garden’. They may use markers and colors to decorate the space and even draw.

insect farm5. Bring to their attention that they may categorize the insects as per their wish. In the image above, my daughter (age 5) categorized them as the ones she Loves and ones she Doesn’t Love. Some other kids categorized them by ones that can fly and ones that crawl OR they may not categorize them at all

6. They may create and share a story out of their garden if they wish to.

ACTIVITY TWO – ANIMAL and BIRD PLAY CARDS

animal categories

  1. Have the animal and bird play cards either cut out beforehand or have the kids do it.
  2. DO NOT go over each animal or bird. We are going to leave it for the kids to discover that on their own.
  3. Challenge the kids to be able to separate the birds and animals in two sections in the shortest time possible. You may time the kids if you wish.

habitats

birdsGo over the answers and see who did it right. Note that some of them could be a challenge. g. Bats are animals that can fly (mammals) and ostriches are birds even though they cannot fly

5. You may now play other games using the same cards and may even make groups to challenge the kids. Eg.You can see in my animal section, I have categorized animals that live in the cold, ones that are found in the African Safaris, and the rest kept separate.

Make up your own games with these cards. Below are some examples I have stated.

  1. Phonics: Kids must pick out all the cards that belong to the alphabet sound you make.
    g. if you say the sound ‘Au’, they must pull out Ostrich and Ox. Focus on the sound here, not the alphabet.
  2. Alphabet: Kids must categorize all animals and birds mixed together as per their starting or ending letters.
    E.g. Seagull, Seal go in one section.
  3. Letters: Kids must arrange cards as per the letters you mention.
    E.g. if you say all the cards that have an ‘H’ in them go in the same category. So Ostrich, Cheetah, Hummingbird go in one section.
  4. Patterns: Kids must arrange all cards in altering patterns like one animal, one bird. You may time them for the same.
  5. Quiz: Take up to 6 cards at a time to help kids memorize names with 3-4 repetitions and then quiz them. Doing all the cards at once may be too overwhelming.
  6. G.K.: Share more information about each animal / bird.
    E.g. The reason why bats are not birds and ostriches are not animals. How different animals adapt to their environment; offspring names, and so on.

Parents, share your responses on these activities. Do you find this activity easy, fun, and educational? How soon are you committed to perform this activity with your kid/s? Did your kid/s enjoy these? What are your questions and queries? Do write back.

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