By Donna Gray, originally published in the Calgary Herald
Advisory Board Member
For any parent with a preschooler, they’re bound to have a tale or two of trips, flips, scrapes, and minor accidents, even during the simplest of activities.
Relax, says Leah Bell, a certified exercise physiologist and coordinator for the Be Fit for Life Centre at the University of Calgary.
It’s normal for preschool kids to be clumsy while participating in physical activities.
“There are a lot of skills a lot of skills that children learn between the ages of 0-6 such as walking, running, balance, jumping, touching, kicking, and throwing,” she says. “They really need to focus on the ABCs–agility, balance, and coordination.”
She further explains that while kids may be learning to play a sport, or simply doing a freestyle activity, their body movements and the balance and agility requires, starts in the brain first. The problem is, their grey matter is still developing, hence the chance for injury.
“There are a lot of neural connections being made in the brain during this age,” she says. “Learning a variety of skills at an early age will give them an advantage in capturing the basics, and it will also boost their self esteem.”
Kids normally become more agile and able to play organized sports by age 8 or 9. That means parents of preschoolers have a long way to go before their kid joins a league or can efficiently play catch with mom or dad.
“Expect your preschooler will be clumsy,” she says. “They’re going to fall, trip, and get hurt. The more experiences they have to practice those ABC’s, the better they’ll do over time, and in future sports.”
Bell stresses keeping a physical environment challenging, but safe at the same time. And don’t forget that their attention spans are short and sweet, so don’t expect too much dedication.
“Bring in all five senses to a sport or unstructured play,” she says. “Avoid teaching them rules of playing the games and don’t obsess over technique or competitiveness. Start with a bigger ball, and then challenge them with a smaller ball.”
Planning ahead for nicks, cuts, falls, and other boo boos is essential, according to Valerie Powell, media spokesperson for the Canada Safety Council.
“The best thing for parents to do when their child is younger is to try and keep a watchful eye on them at all times,” she says. ‘”Be there to help them along in the learning process.”
Investing in a first aid kit and protective equipment are also helpful to ensuring a child’s natural clumsiness doesn’t get the better of them.
“Use protective equipment, especially a helmet for activities such as biking, skating, and skateboarding,” she says. “Learning First Aid and/or CPR training is a good idea for parents or caregivers. Keep a first aid kit handy, and make sure the kids have properly fitted shoes.”
For more information, visit the Canada Safety Council website at www.safety-council.org.