My gym membership is one of the things I miss most about pre-iso life. And not only because it comes with access to a crèche, although that’s definitely a plus. But while my laptop now pings at me multiple times a day with yoga, pilates, and barre classes streaming live into my living room, I worry about my two year old’s declining activity levels.
Back when she was still attending daycare, most days I’d arrive to collect her and find her clambering on a play gym, or chasing her friends around the cubby house. A trip to Westfield wasn’t complete without a visit to the softplay area. And at least once a week, we’d meet up with friends for a playdate that would invariably exhaust her into a nap before I’d pulled out of the carpark.
Now, I make a concerted effort to take her to the park, where I try to bait her with a ball. She asks repeatedly why we can’t go on the play equipment, as I try to explain the concept of ‘germs’ to a toddler who regularly licks things she shouldn’t. And no matter how hard I try to get her moving by throwing a dance party in our living room, as I approach the third trimester of my second pregnancy, I am absolutely no match for her energy. Cue long, drawn out bedtimes with a little girl who simply isn’t that tired.
So I was relieved to speak with Elly Robinson, who is a specialist in navigating the interface between evidence and practice in child and family services. Elly has a Graduate Diploma in Adolescent Health, a Master of Public Health, and has just published her latest book, Surviving Year 12. And while her area of expertise is teenagers, as a mum herself, she knows a thing or two about kids of all ages.
Elly kindly shared some tips on keeping kids active in lockdown…
Elly’s latest book is Surviving Year 12 by Michael Carr-Gregg and Elly Robinson, published by Penguin Random House Australia on 7 January 2020, RRP $22.99
Header image: Goldie & Ace
Why is exercise so important for kids (apart from tiring them out to keep us sane!)
Evidence shows us that physical activity at any age is important due to its relationship with health outcomes, including reducing the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. We also know that sedentary behaviour, such as sitting or lying down, isn’t great for your health. Involve kids in exercise from an early age so that it becomes part of their normal routine, just like sleeping and meal times. Remember that exercise can be lots of different things – walking, running, taking the stairs, yoga, skipping or hula hoops all count!
While we practise social distancing, we're cutting out many physical activities the kids usually attend, plus incidental exercise like walking to school. What are some home-bound alternatives we can do to keep the kids active?
Check the advice in your state or territory about exercise and social distancing, as advice may change regularly. At the time of writing, exercise outside as a family unit is allowed. Playgrounds are not open, but families can exercise in many parks.
There are plenty of activities you can do inside that contribute to keeping active. Games such as charades or Twister, playing musical instruments, cooking and cleaning up, all involve movement and energy. There are also many apps and online videos that can get you moving for free.
Are there any resources you can recommend to help, such as Youtube channels?
There’s lots of online resources and apps available. The best source of knowledge about online options may well be your older children. It’s great to let them be the expert once in a while. Ask them what games they play that involve activity and movement. The main thing is to make sure that online resources and activities are from reputable sources. Continue to monitor use, and ensure that your children remember the rules around online safety. For more information see the e-safety website.
For families living in apartments without access to a backyard, how can they keep kids moving and healthy?
Be creative about what constitutes movement and activity. Get everyone involved in cleaning and cooking, growing herbs on the windowsill, making obstacle courses or building cubby houses. If you can, help older children access equipment if needed, such as yoga mats or weights. VicHealth’s Healthy Living Apps Guide is one place where you can search for apps that incorporate physical activity and sport, including some which can be done inside.
Are there any guidelines for how much exercise children should be getting per day?
The Department of Health has published guidelines for both physical activities and sedentary behaviours (e.g. sitting time) for all children aged 0-18 years. Physical activity is encouraged from birth. Infants need supervised interactive floor-based play, and 1-5 year olds should spend at least 3 hours a day doing a variety of physical activities. This can include jumping, running, throwing and twirling. For 5-18 year olds, at least 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous exercise is recommended, and long periods of sitting should be interspersed with activity as often as possible. The 60 minutes doesn’t have to be done all in one go.
If in doubt, what's your quick-fix for getting some last minute physical activity in?
Put some music on and dance around the living room. But not too close to bedtime!