Apart from teaching young children to swim, there is rarely a need for other kinds of formal training in early childhood. Children up to the age of about seven should simply be encouraged to walk, dance, run around and play physical games such as jumping, hopping and skipping. These kinds of games teach children how to interact with other people, as well as encouraging a love of movement and activity. Children in this age group may begin to enjoy activities such as, roller-skating, in-line skating, skateboarding and climbing, although any potentially dangerous activities should always be properly supervised.
Exercise and development
An important factor affecting physical development is confidence. Some toddlers are extremely confident and climb ropes and frames by the age of 18 months; others are more cautious and have a fear of heights or falling. Such fears are sometimes passed on by nervous parents. It is important that parents balance their fears with the child’s need to develop. If a safe environment is provided, a child may be allowed to indulge her natural sense of adventure.
Children aged up to seven years already have the strength and coordination for jumping and skipping, climbing and ball games. To avoid placing unnecessary stress on children, it may be advisable to de-emphasize the importance of winning competitive games and concentrate on the social aspects of energetic play.
By the age of four or five, children can usually be taught to ride a bicycle. However, they should only cycle in an enclosed area, away from roads and traffic, as a child of this age is too young to understand the principles of road safety, or to judge the speed of traffic. Even off the road, it is advisable for a child to wear a helmet and, if possible, to cycle on grass, to prevent head injury in the event of a fall. Activities such as in-line skating and skateboarding encourage a child to develop a sense of balance. As with cycling, a safe area, away from roads and traffic should be chosen, and appropriate safety equipment, such as a helmet and pads to protect the knees and elbows should be worn. Children may also enjoy climbing, an activity which provides muscle-building exercise and encourages them to think logically about how to make strategic movements. A purpose-built climbing frame, securely erected in a garden, can provide entertainment for children.
Children aged up to seven years are usually full of energy and need little encouragement to run and play. Parents can help to boost a timid child’s confidence by offering plenty of praise and encouragement. Some children need to be diverted from sedentary activities, such as watching television, and it is best to do this in a positive way by trying to discover active games that the child enjoys.