Plant the health & fitness seed in Preschool

Written by: Lannette Wolford

Most of us understand that providing a high quality education for young children is a key to a child's future success.  But as important as math, science and reading programs are, a good physical education program in the school is equally important.  Preschool is no different!  The foundational skills needed to achieve academic success include social, cognitive and physical development. There is no reason to wait until a child is in kindergarten to begin a physical education program.

Children must be taught the importance of daily physical activity and good nutrition as early as possible.  We teach children to brush their teeth, comb their hair, and wash their hands during the formative years; fitness and nutrition should be no different. Children need to understand that the decisions they make about how they treat their bodies will affect them for their entire life.

We know that daily physical activity helps to maintain healthy muscles, helps control weight, reduces the chance of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, CAD, feelings of depression and can build self esteem.  Schools are cutting budgets to improve their academic program, but are overlooking the simple fact that physical activity can actually help increase the capacity for learning.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NAPSE) recommends that preschool children get an hour of structured physical activity per day, and an hour or more of unstructured activity. While many schools emphasize the importance of free play, a structured physical education program does not exist in most preschools.

When searching for the perfect school for your child, don’t forget to ask questions about the physical education curriculum.  Dr. Steve Sanders, Chair of the Department of Health and Physical Education at Tennessee Technological University recommends that parents look for the following: Does the school have a program that promotes development in gross motor skills like running, jumping, galloping, skipping, balance, throwing, catching, kicking, climbing and striking?  Do the children learn about rhythm, musical patterns, directional awareness (left, right, up and down) and body part identification?  Are the teachers qualified to provide age appropriate activities for preschool children?  Is there a scheduled time each day of at least 30 minutes for children to practice their physical skills? Does the center avoid elimination games or exclude any of them from the activities?  Does everyone have their own equipment or do they have to wait in line to take turns? 

By letting center directors know your expectations they will be more inclined to provide structured P.E. programs in their school.  We are living in a time where childhood obesity is at an all time high, and parents will soon outlive their children.  It is our responsibility as parents and teachers to make sure we are providing the opportunity for our children to develop a strong foundation of physical skills.   By plant the seed of healthy lifestyle habits at an early age, we can provide a lifetime of health and wellness.

Posted on November 09, 2011 at 1:15 PM