As early year’s practitioners working with young children, do you feel that early years settings have the responsibility to ensure that the children in their care meet the recommended level of physical activity a day?
Health, Hygiene and Nutrition
According to the National Guidelines on Physical Activity for Ireland, 2009, all children from 2 years to 18 years of age should be active at a moderate to vigorous level, for at least 60 minutes every day. (DOHC,HSE,2009).This essay will discuss the role that physical activity has in promoting children’s mental health and wellbeing as well as the general health benefits associated with physical activity in young children. The ...view middle of the document...
Children who develop a love of sport in childhood are more likely to continue with sporting activities as they grow up. Research shows that these young adults perform better academically and are less likely to become involved in crime, drug or alcohol abuse.
Challenges faced in providing physical activity in Early Years Setting.
In the past children’s play was essentially their physical activity, much of their play took place outdoors in the fresh air. Free play, football, running and chasing games made up a large proportion of their day, so there was little need to be concerned with whether they were getting enough exercise or not. In today’s society this is no longer the case; parents no longer feel it is safe to allow children play freely outside. Many parents do not have the time to simply play outdoors with their children, take them for walks or to the playground. Children are increasingly being raised in an environment where a sedentary lifestyle with television, computers and video games is customary, this has resulted in a generation of children who rely on visual media for the entertainment and stimulation that earlier generations derived from physical and outdoor activities. The children are likely to adapt these habits and carry them into adulthood. Early years services are often limited in what physical activities they can offer due to space limitations, safety regulations and time constraints and cost. Until recently there were very few public play facilities which would encourage physical activity. Merchant et al (2007) states that “access to play spaces, facilities and availability of equipment has also been positively related to physical activity among children”. The issue of availability and accessibility is a social policy issue that should ensure that equal opportunities and facilities are available to all communities. Stereotyping can also provide a challenge when creating opportunities for physical activity. A study by Williams et al Growing up in Ireland (2009) found that boys were more likely to meet the World Health Organisation recommendation of 60 minutes vigorous physical activity per day. 29% of boys compared to 21% of girls currently meet this requirement. This question of inequality needs to be looked at with more opportunities for physical activity being created and made available to girls.
Play is a child’s work, they learn and develop through play, and much of their play consists of physical activity. The health benefits of play have only recently been recognised at a legislative level. The National Play Policy (2004) ‘Ready, Steady, Play!’ Was published as part of the National Children’s Strategy, this policy supports the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child Article 32 ‘All Children have a right to play’. Its aim was to raise awareness of the importance of play for children. ‘Ready, Steady, Play!’ came about as a result of consultation with children. In 2001 over 2000...