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The importance of active play for children

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Active play should be part of early learning and must be taught by parents to their children while they are still young.

This was the statement by early childhood education specialist Dr Alice Brown, who presented her research on health and physical education in the early years at the recent Research Colloquia and Showcase held at Springfield Campus, University of Southern Queensland, on June 12.

The Research Colloquia and Showcase is a two-day initiative of Digital Futures and the Australian Centre for Sustainable Business Development featuring presentations, workshops and mentoring that aims to increase student work and involvement.

Brown believes physical movement is a vital part of developing a strong foundation for a young child’s health and growth and said that it is never too early to involve a child in active play.

“Many adults believe that infants and toddlers pick up ‘how to move’ just by being active, yet in today’s busy and ‘adult controlled world’ this isn’t necessarily the case,” she said.

Brown likened teaching one’s child physical activity to showing a child how to brush their teeth or how to read, saying that parents and carers of young children should incorporate opportunities to move in a child’s daily activities. This, she said, will help in the development, health and social and psychological wellbeing of the child.

She also mentioned that current findings in brain research have found that movements that occur early in a child’s life stimulate the brain and leads to a healthy brain development. Brown said that movements cause babies to learn how to move and to move in order to learn.

She further noted that today’s infants are usually “containerised” or confined for long periods of time to cots, highchairs, bouncers, prams and car seats. This, she said, causes children to have fewer opportunities to explore and move.

Among the physical activities Brown suggested for infants include turning a child over gently and allowing the child to push their feet against the carer’s hand or to urge the infant to try to reach and grab objects. She also recommended dancing to music with the toddler held close to the parent’s body to enable the child to feel the rhythm of the dance.

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