Exercise for pre-schoolers should be part of parental playtime – find me three hours extra a day

IT seems ironic that although my three-year-daughter runs rings around me and never keeps still, I couldn’t ever claim that she gets three hours exercise EVERY day.
Yet this is the latest piece of Government advice to stop pre-schoolers from becoming obese and suffer poor brain development.
And it’s not just three-year-olds. Babies and newborns are included in the guidelines to be published this week.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean we’re lining up our toddlers on mini treadmills or insisting they do a lap of the garden and 20 press-ups before being spoon-fed their porridge.
But it does, according to the Government’s new Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies, mean more active play to make children ‘huff-and-puff’ more.
We shouldn’t be regarding outside play and jumping about like bonkers as a ‘treat,’ it should just be something they just do, everyday.
Reading about this guidance over the weekend made me think, isn’t three hours every day quite a lot, and pretty tricky, unless you only have one child and nothing else going on in your life?
I don’t disagree with the idea, quite the opposite.
We park our children in highchairs, car seats and buggies for their own protection but a lot of the time it’s for our own convenience.
We all know you can get somewhere much faster if your toddler is in a pushchair instead of stopping and starting while they decide to pick up tiny stones (or worse), simply refuse to hold your hand or move an inch.
And walking to school may not be practical when you have to drive several miles to work once you’ve dropped them off.
And a baby in a bouncy chair watching Cbeebies while you run the vacuum around is a godsend. When babies are small its hard enough to keep up with the feeds, the sleeps and the colic without a regulation three-hour’s wriggle time.
“Go swimming with baby, walk to school instead of taking the car” says the advice. “Turn off the TV and walk to the park. Let your baby kick and roll or have ‘tummy time.”
Tummy Time is where you put a new baby who can hold their head up on the floor on their stomach to stretch and try to roll. Often they just get cross, grunt and thump their face into the carpet.
There will be plenty of parents out there who walk everywhere with their kids, have large gardens and go to the park daily.
But then there are the rest of us, whose routines are tightly controlled by rapid car journeys between work, schools, clubs and chores.
Apparently, a survey by the University of Worcester showed parents wildly overestimate the amount of exercise we think our kids get. Nine and ten-year olds actually average about half an hour a day, while we parents kid ourselves that they get eight-times that amount.
Our youngest two are top-class fidgeters who happily run around in circles like puppies chasing their tails. They have at least a couple of hours playtime on school or nursery days, but some days not much more at home.
In theory our two eldest get daily exercise by cycling and walking to school or doing sports clubs. But there are days when they get driven everywhere, sit about watching TV and do very little activity (unless you count answering back).
You see a lot of very chubby kids out there whose parents allow them to eat whatever they like, whenever they like, and sit on their backsides playing computer games from 3.30pm to way past what I would see as a reasonable bedtime. It’s a minefield.
This is a time when authorities are cutting budgets on things like playgrounds, sports fields, Sure Start schemes and play leaders. Our green spaces are being sold off for housing that no one wants.
There’s no doubt that we should be getting our children more active, but the edict of a prescriptive three-hours a day might just panic the middle-class neurotics into paying for expensive clubs, while people who might actually need some help just see it as more Government nannying and reach for the remote. And a biscuit.

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