One in three children in the United States is overweight.
The average American child spends five-and-a-half hours a day on media-driven activities like watching TV, spending time on the computer, or playing games on an iPad.
Childhood obesity increases the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and certain cancers.
To counter these effects of modern life and combat the growing obesity epidemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should be “physically active for at least 60 minutes per day,” at a minimum.
The National Association of Sport and Physical Education advocates that toddlers participate in at least 30 minutes of structured exercise, like yoga, with an additional hour of active free play.
By setting up structured physical activity early in a child’s life, the parent has an opportunity to make exercise a healthy lifelong habit.
Not only is the fun activity a good way to make it as much a part of their everyday routine as brushing their teeth, it also ensures that the children will get the minimum amount of physical activity as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Kids who exercise regularly, sleep better and demonstrate a better ability to handle physical and emotional challenges. Children who are exposed to sports and exercise early on tend to stay active throughout the rest of their childhood and adolescent lives.
Staying fit can also help boost a child’s self-esteem. Additionally, if the physical activity is in a group setting, it gives the child an opportunity to interact with other children, setting up ground for developing social skills.
Leading a toddler through structured physical activity and exercise is an excellent bonding experience for parent and child.
At the toddler-age, kids are developing their motor skills and focusing on activities, like yoga, that help them work on their balance and eye-hand coordination greatly improves their development.
Also, yoga’s various animal-named poses make the process much more “fun” than “work.” Not only do the poses work the children’s bodies, but it is also exercise for their brains as they learn all the animals.
Focus on active “playtime” to take the stigma out of exercise.
Yoga, as all structured exercise activities, should be introduced as a new form of play for toddlers and children. By creating this positive association between exercise and fun, children are encouraged to seek out physical activity for fun and are less likely to view exercise as a burden or a chore later in life.
Making exercise fun at a young age ensures a healthy relationship with it as adults.
The more fun the activity, the more likely toddlers will be willing to cooperate and more likely they will remain engaged for a longer period of time.
Mixing up the combination of poses from day to day also keeps them mentally involved.
Set aside a dedicated time to “play yoga.” Try not to put pressure on the children to stay focused on the poses. Lead them through the movements, but also allow them the opportunity to wander, explore and play.
Some cities have classes specifically targeted to toddlers and parents. Another option is to find DVDs focused on the younger set.
YogaKids is a three-disc series of yoga moves for children between the ages of three and six. Each disc is 35 minutes long and runs through a series of 20 poses alternating with images of animals.
Setting up a yoga space for toddlers
If you’re interested in setting up a space at home for your toddler’s yoga practice, here are a few tips to get started:
· Choose a quiet space or corner of a room where there isn’t heavy foot traffic. Toddlers are easily distracted; minimize the number of distractions present.
· Make sure you have the appropriate media equipment setup: DVD players, computers, TVs all arranged for easy-viewing.
· Help your child choose a fun, brightly colored or patterned mat for themselves.
· Decorate the space with yoga-themed images; printouts of positions or animals mimicking the positions are appropriate and helpful.
· Include more props than you would use for your own practice. Blocks, puppets, scarves, stuffed animals and more are great additions to the standard yoga practice to keep your child engaged.
Not only will yoga improve flexibility and coordination for your toddler, but it will also improve the long-term health of your child.
Try incorporating a short yoga session into your child’s daily routine for maximum benefits.
Marcela De Vivo is the founder of Gryffin Media and an accomplished online marketing professional with expertise in social networking, search marketing and web analytics. She currently writes regularly for Skintrium’s health and beauty blog. Marcela and her 2 year old daughter Izzy enjoy doing yoga together.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel
Assist Ed: Madison Canary