At first glance, your child's physical development may seem as though it is a given. After all, your child is growing like a weed and learning to walk, run and jump without much assistance from you. Adults actually play an integral part in the development of their child's physical health and abilities. Your little one depends on you to set limits and promote behaviors that encourage a healthy lifestyle, provide him with adequate nutrition and protect him from injuries that could prevent him from enjoying a healthy childhood.
MayoClinic.com reports that children who spend too much time -- more than two hours a day -- in front of screens are more likely to be overweight andhave sleep issues and are less likely to engage in active, physical play. Children are dependent on their parents to set limits in order to set the foundation for success. To prevent such unhealthy behaviors in kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents limit screen time for growing and developing children. Since parents' own habits and behaviors are highly influential, MayoClinic.com also recommends that you limit your own screen time to set a positive example.
Children -- especially in the early years -- rely on adults to encourage and provide opportunities for physical play that promote gross motor development and a healthy lifestyle. When you child is a toddler or preschooler, this can be as simple as turning on the music and dancing around the living room. As your little one grows, the AAP recommends that you seek out a sport or other physical activity for your child to be involved with -- perhaps a baseball team or soccer league. If your child has an aversion to organized sports, take family bike rides around the block or spend an afternoon at the pool together.
Nutrition plays a key part in your child's development. ChildrensHeartCenter.org points out that children with proper nutrition are able to participate in more activities with greater enjoyment and enjoy an overall sense of well being. Since your little one can't exactly whip up his own smoothie -- he depends on you to provide him with the nutrients he needs for his body to grow and develop. Kids Health suggests enjoying meals together as a family, making sure your child gets fruit, vegetables and whole grains as part of his daily diet and -- as in all things -- serving as a good role model by demonstrating healthy eating habits yourself.
Part of the adult's role in promoting physical development is making sure that it can happen in safe and developmentally appropriate ways. The website for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year, more than 200,000 children ages 14 and under are treated in emergency rooms for playground-related injuries. Your child relies on you to keep him safe and to supervise his play so that he is able to continue enjoying a healthy and active childhood. Make sure that he knows how to use playground and sports equipment correctly and understands which equipment is not yet developmentally appropriate for him and supervise his play whenever possible.
- HealthyChildren.org: Encouraging Your Child to be Physically Active
- MayoClinic.com: Children and TV: Limiting Your Child's Screen Time
- ChildrensHeartCenter: Why is Nutrition Important for Children?
- Kids Health: Healthy Eating
- Early Childhood News: Encouraging Physical Development
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Playground Injuries: Fact Sheet
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images