By Keri-Ellen Walcer
When my daughter was born, I was flooded with emotion. I looked into her eyes and felt a deep sense of responsibility. In the days following her birth I was overwhelmed by thoughts of all the things in this world that could hurt her and I wanted to protect her from them. The frightening fact is that we are living in a time where our children have a shorter life expectancy than us. The culprit: lifestyle choices leading to poor health outcomes. Did you know that in Canada 21% of toddlers are obese?
That’s why when I started preparing my daughter for school by teaching her the alphabet, I also taught her the ABC’s of physical literacy to prepare her for lifelong health and fitness. These skills are classified in three different categories Agility, Balance and Coordination. Giving our little ones the recommended 90 minutes of daily physical activity takes effort but here are some simple activities that you can start to incorporate today.
Agility: Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick
How many times per day do you find yourself saying, “be careful”, “don’t run” and “slow down”? Try not to say it so often. Agility is defined as being able to change the body’s position quickly and efficiently. We need to give our children opportunities to practice this skill. Try getting out a flash light and dim the ceiling lights in your house. Put on a little mood music and flash circles of light on the floor, ask your child to jump on the light beams as you quickly move them from one place to another. Even young crawlers will enjoy this activity by trying to grab the lights on the floor.
Balance “I’m a little teapot”
There are two kinds of balance, one is standing still and the other is while moving. Balance is an important skill to develop and does not happen by itself. Games such as hop scotch, hopping on one foot and two feet are great. Another fun way to develop balance is through dance and yoga activities. Do you remember the rhyme I’m a little teapot? ”I’m a little teapot short and stout”, stand with your child, feet wide apart, “Here is my handle, here is my spout”, put one hand on your hip and one hand stretched out,”When I get all steamed up hear me shout” on the words “tip me over and pour me out”, gently help your child to tip one way while bringing the opposite leg off the floor, practice this on both sides.
Co-Ordination- Wiggle it!
Co-ordination is about being able to control all of your body parts while doing a variety of activities. One of the all time most effective ways to promote overall body co-ordination is through dance and music. Giving your child opportunities to shake a rattle, or beat a tambourine while dancing to some favorite tunes is fun, easy and inspirational. On a cold or cloudy day, why not gather in the living room and have a dance party?
Do it Together
Fitness is a family affair, you are your children’s first teacher, and they will follow you for better or worse. When you have begun to find meaningful ways to keep yourself and your children active, invite your friends, join together to move your community into better health. You will find that you can inspire each other and have a great time doing it.
It is not too late for us to reverse the trend of childhood obesity and to give our children a healthy foundation for a long life. Now you know your ABC’s, next time will you move with me?
 New England Journal of Medicine February 2010
Keri-Ellen is a children’s fitness ambassador and founder of MusiGo Inc. best known for Wee Wigglers: Fresh musical fitness for preschoolers. Keri-Ellen is also a professor of Recreation and Leisure services at Durham College. She currently resides in Bowmanville, Ontario with her husband and four children.