Even everyday journeys and mundane chores can be used to encourage children to be more physically active. Here are some ideas, suggested by the Outdoors and Active project team:
Use the stairs whenever you can. Start by encouraging children to use the stairs in the home or in flats, shops and when out and about. If there is a choice of steps or a ramp, use the steps. Walk up and down escalators, rather than just ‘riding’ them.
Help children learn how to jump and land safely – this could begin indoors, jumping from the bed or sofa onto cushions. Outdoors, search for low walls, steps and logs to jump over and from.
Using obstacles and features in the streetscape to encourage movement, e.g. under and over bike stands, up and down steps, along lines or cracks in the pavement, jumping over bollards, reaching to touch things high up, picking leaves.
Always take the ‘scenic route’ – that usually means a slightly longer route! It might also mean a route that has more interesting street features or obstacles to tackle, or more hills, steps or bushes to play in.
Give children a meaningful role in clearing up after outdoor play. Child sized brooms, gardening tools and storage boxes mean they can be fully involved. It might take longer at first, as you show them how to clear up, how to carry safely and where to put all the toys, but in the long term they’ll be able to take responsibility for clearing up and it won’t take nearly so long.
Give children a small backpack to wear, containing their water bottle, a healthy snack and a treasure bag. Wearing a backpack alters children’s centre of gravity and forces the body to adjust its posture and pace. Don’t overload the backpack, and children will gain from the extra responsibility of carrying their own ‘stuff’.
Think about footwear. During or after rain, use wellington boots, so that you can actively encourage children to splash in puddles or wade through mud. Wear shoes with good grips when out and about in the parks and open spaces of Newham, so that children can safely run, climb trees and negotiate obstacles.
Think about going barefoot. Children’s feet are very sensitive and their bodies and faces react in unpredictable ways to barefoot walking outdoors. Of course it’s important to ensure there’s no glass or dog mess underfoot, but testing their balance and building core strength by moving over different and awkward textures and surfaces is a good way for children to build physicality and resilience.
Allow children to help with everyday tasks: carrying some of the shopping;
Perhaps the most important Top Tip was to always allow an extra ten minutes for every journey, to enable children to make these physically active movements – if you’re in a rush, children won’t get time to explore their environment or their bodies, and an opportunity to work towards the British Heart Foundation’s three hours of physical activity per day will have been missed.
To get an printable copy of these ideas to take with you, download these Top Tips for Everyday Physicality.Outdoors and Active also generated a list of great suggestions for a physicality ‘grab and go’ kit – you can view and download the list on our Grab and Go Kit page.