Summer is a time for our children to rest from school and the daily routine of club courses and extra activities during the term months. After a whole year of hard work they can finally spend more time outside enjoying the good weather. This is also an opportunity for many of us to have a break from work and introduce some changes to improve our life style and promote healthy behaviour for our children.
I would like to encourage everyone to dedicate some time during the holiday period to observe how you and your kids behave; move and what positions you spend most time in throughout the day.
There are many ways to improve our health and to keep fit such as attending sports clubs, swimming, dancing, gym or just using our cars less to be able to walk and cycle more. But there are also a lot of small things that you can change to make a positive difference to your child’s health without any extra costs and a huge effort. What’s more addressing these issues in an early age will help your child to become a fit and active person.
In the experience I have gained as a physiotherapist and as a father, I can share some of my ideas and observations of how to keep your child in a good health.
1. Spend time playing on the floor with your child
It is important to encourage children (especially the little ones) as much as possible to spend time away from the typical ‘table and chair’ setting and instead to play in different floor based positions.
a. Set up play that encourages children to work from a deep squat position such as driving trucks or cars.
b. Introduce activities that have your child sitting on the floor, such as board games or building blocks.
c. Promote drawing and / or reading in different lying positions including time on the front, side and back.
These positions will keep feet, knees, hips, pelvis and spine moving in a full range thus allowing muscles to stretch and relax. Introducing these positions on a daily basis will enable smooth progressive muscle lengthening over time and better range of movements helping to keep good body posture.
2. Don’t forget about stretching
A lot of kids do sport which is great. Playing football, cricket, dancing and doing many other sports involve speed training and muscle strengthening but often not enough stretching. Growing bones need flexible muscles and elastic joints for proper development. It is very important to sustain a balance between strength and flexibility to avoid compression and enable unrestricted body movements.
Getting kids to roll on balls and rolling pins, and encouraging the long sit position – with straight legs on the floor will help to keep full range of movements in the hips, back and shoulders.
Everyone should be able to touch their feet without bending knees or squat without lifting heels of the floor – Can you? Can your children? I admit that stretching can be difficult but when arranged with games it may become good fun for the whole family!
The benefits of keeping your shoes off
The foot is a base of our body and it works as a shock absorber, accelerator and brake. The health of our feet is crucial for the health of our knees, hips, backs shoulders and necks. Allowing children to walk, run and climb bare foot in a safe way is very important for foot development and helps maintain proper function.
Walking on grass, sand, and pebbles keeps the foot muscles working and the joints moving properly. There are many ways to improve your foot strength and flexibility but it is always good to have some fun with it. You can join the competition of picking marbles, Lego blocks or other small objects using your feet only with your child and seeing who is faster.
If bare feet walking is not possible, try to use minimal sole shoes, flip flops, sandals with enough space for toes and with a flexible sole. Do not worry that lack of cushioning will harm your feet. In fact it will make them stronger!
If you require any further advice or feel that you or your child would benefit from physiotherapy assessment or treatment please contact me at KTB on 01322 277 200.