Push Play – Active movement for under 5’s

Becoming an All White or Silver Fern might start before we can walk and talk. How important is active movement for children under-5?

Children are curious and have an instinct to explore the world around them, but only if it is fun. If kids grow up in an entertaining and creative environment, they can develop the confidence and competence to move and play. And some might argue that this environment is the foundation for kids to grow up to be All Blacks and Black Sticks.

We all know some kids are better at sport than others. Some excel in ball games, others in games of balance, or racquet skills that rely on hand-eye coordination. Some jump higher, run faster, dodge quicker, skip higher, throw further, or even become the school’s champion hula hooper. A common explanation is they’re naturals destined to be brilliant at sport, but that’s not necessarily true. It’s likely that this apparent natural skill has been developed with the help of their parents. From a few weeks old, their folks may have fostered their child’s ability to move and, in the process, helped build their child’s sporting advantage over others.

This physical development can result from what Sport New Zealand calls ‘Active Movement’, which is a combination of skills, games and problem-solving tasks for kids under 5 years of age. Don’t worry, this isn’t a military styled baby boot-camp of determination and hardship, their parents haven’t been keeping their babies awake to practice ball rolling followed by sit ups. Instead, Active Movement is made up of simple and fun physical games that help develop a baby’s brain, getting it fit to send rapid messages telling the body to move.

For the average child, 85% of their brain is developed in the first three years of their life. During this time, Active Movement strengthens the connections developing within the brain. These connections are vital for memory, sensory development and communication between the two sides of the brain. All of this enables young children to grow through playfulness, develop their imagination, and the confidence and skills to participate in a world full of physical activity. But, before the children learn, parents often need advice in how to get their kids moving.

By engaging children in Active Movement activities, you will be helping to build the foundations for a lifelong involvement in sport, recreation and potentially a high performance athlete.

… get kids active for free

In 2007, Sport NZ (then called SPARC) conducted some world-leading research on Active Movement and developed a series of resources for parents, giving them ideas on how to get their under 5-year-olds moving: from balancing, to climbing, jumping, eye-movement, catching, throwing, developing language, and even developing finer skills for the hands and fingers. Brochures and videos on these are available on the Sport NZ website (www.sportnz.org.nz) and resources are often given out through Plunket and some Early Childhood Centres.

… helping kiwi kids get better at sport?

Sport NZ believes that sport is an integral part of New Zealand’s culture and way of life. Their vision is to ensure that all New Zealanders have access to sport wherever they live, whoever they are and whatever their ability. They want to see more kids and more adults in sport and recreation, and more winners on the world stage.

The Sport NZ website has a comprehensive list of National Sports Organisations’ websites, ranging from Archery to Lacrosse to Waterpolo. And for those looking for something less competitive, there are many activities under the National Recreational Organisations tab, including Outward Bound Trust, Spirit of Adventure Trust, Boys’ Brigade and Scout Association, Alpine Clubs, Dance Aotearoa, plus much more!

some other ways to get your family moving:

  • Department of Conservation – for a list of family-friendly walks www.doc.govt.nz
  • Feet first – NZTA initiative to encourage more kids to walk to schoolwww.education.nzta.govt.nz/feet-first
  • Kids’ Bike Jams – mountain bike event for every kids with attitude, energy and wheels. www.kidsbikejams.co.nz
  • Weetbix Tryathlons – annual kids’ event with a run, swim and bike ride.www.tryathlon.weetbix.co.nz
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