During children's formative years, it is critical that parents and caregivers support every aspect of their development. Parents can serve as excellent role models, teaching by example. Introducing children early to healthy lifestyle choices sets the stage for them to transform these behaviours into lifelong habits.
A holistic approach encompasses several areas:
Ideally, children should engage in at least one hour of vigorous physical activity every day. It is also important to give children the opportunity to try out a range of sports and activities and to ensure that they have a variety of exercise. This should include cardio, mobility, balance and strength work. Alongside this children can benefit from the more technical aspects of sports, as it helps to support brain function, analytical thinking and coordination skills.
Making children passionate about physical activity is important from an early age. Often children who are surrounded by physically active adults will be more likely to want to be involved in sports and exercise themselves. One way to promote regular exercise is to limit how much time children spend in front of a television or smartphone. Encourage physical play – exercise does not need to be organised fun but can be anything from a game of tag in the playground, to a brisk walk or a run around the park, to tackling the climbing frame.
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables daily can help stave off chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease. Educating children to make good food choices needs to start in the home from an early age. Feeding children a range of fruits, vegetables, pulses and fibrous foods is extremely important in ensuring that they remain healthy both on the inside and out. It is important to give children the opportunity to try a variety of foods and be adventurous with flavours. By preparing and eating healthy meals as a family children learn to enjoy the experience that food can give them. Likewise, snacks that are low in sugar are a wise choice.
Children should be encouraged to drink water regularly throughout the day instead of soft drinks - this can be encouraged by providing them with a reusable drinking bottle.
It's recommended that during early childhood (3-5 years), children get 10-13 hours of sleep a night. Primary school children require about 9-11 hours per night, while teenagers (14-17-year-olds) should get 8-10 hours each night. Getting enough sleep is crucial to supporting a child's physical and psychological development. It also helps support their immunity and boost mental wellbeing. Poor sleep can put children at risk of developing a range of medical conditions in the future.
Parents can encourage healthy sleep habits by establishing a consistent sleep schedule, limiting noise before and after bedtime and keeping sleeping areas cool and comfortable. They should ensure that children do not use computers, phones and other multimedia devices for a few hours before bed. Parents should also be aware that sleep apnoea is fairly common in children and can prevent them from getting an adequate night's rest. This is something that should be monitored and medical support should be sought should there be any concerns.
Beginning in early childhood, parents can plan right- and left-handed activities to activate both sides of the brain and accommodate different learning styles. Caregivers can help children master new skills by demonstrating how to complete an activity and providing encouragement and direction until the child is able to accomplish the task independently. Additionally, parents can engage students' natural curiosity by giving them ample opportunities to learn and explore on their own.
Young children enhance their language skills and cognitive development through play, both by themselves and with parents and peers. Allowing children to guide their learning ensures that they take a true interest in the subjects that they are studying. Children learn better by interacting with their environment than they do by passively taking in media (for i.e., screen time). Parents and educators can make learning more meaningful by using children's interests as a springboard to introduce new concepts.
Emotional and Relational Development
Children's emotional and social development are two sides of the same coin. Research reveals a direct link between healthy relational-emotional development and academic achievement. According to the National Academy of Sciences, "Strong social-emotional development underlies all later social, emotional, and academic success."
Parents can nurture this critical area of development by showing affection to their children, sharing feelings and allowing children to express emotions, encouraging children to try new things, maintaining a regular routine, modelling kind behaviour and providing plenty of opportunities for interaction with peers. They need to nurture children’s confidence to ask for help when they need it so that they know they are always supported. Allowing them to experience a range of experiences and opportunities will ensure that they have the best development they can.
At One World International School, we provide a well-rounded learning experience that supports the whole child. Contact us to learn more about how our programmes encourage children to reach their highest potential.