The nature of children is that they are usually very active and sometimes even restless – you just can’t keep a child in one place, it is not in their nature! Thus kids ought to be allowed to feel and live their lives naturally for them to develop wholly and be healthy all round.
Experts say kids below five years of age especially require spending a little amount of their time sitting down and watching TV or looking into a smartphone or tablet etc.; they are not to be confined to prams and seats. According to the World Health Organisation, children also should be allowed to get good quality of sleep while engaging more actively in playing. All of this advisory is contained in the new guidelines supplied by the world health authority as requirements for the growth of children if they are to develop to be healthy.
The import of these is also corroborated in the findings of recent studies which further highlighted the health advantages and the overall significance of spending time outdoors, both for kids as well as adults.
In certain quarters it is contended that any outdoor environment would do, but some assert that it has to be a “green” environment, i.e. one that contains trees and leaves. Nonetheless, others have revealed that a mere picture of greenery is able to bring about mental health advantages. But beside these distinctions, most of the research efforts have come to an understanding that children who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, as well as less anxious than those who remain indoors most of the time.
Even though it is not too certain how precisely the cognitive functioning and temperament enhancements arise, researchers have made us to understand a few things relating to why nature is good for the minds of children.
Further on the WHO release, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the world body’s Director-General said, “Achieving health for all means doing what is best for health right from the beginning of people’s lives.” He added, “Early childhood is a period of rapid development and a time when family lifestyle patterns can be adapted to boost health gains.”
On April 24, 2019 WHO made public a press release wherein it stated the new guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children below the age of 5 as developed by a panel of experts of the health body. The experts did an evaluation of the effects of inadequate sleep on young children, and time they spent on screens or confinement to chairs and prams. It also involved an assessment of the proofs surrounding the suggested gains associated with higher levels of activity.
“Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and entire wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life,” says Dr. Fiona Bull, programme manager for surveillance and population-based prevention of non-communicable diseases, at WHO.
Not being able to come to terms with present physical activity recommendations is said to be accountable for more than 5 million deaths involving all age groups each year worldwide. At present, over 23% of adults and 80% of adolescents do not engage in adequate amount of physical activity. According to the experts, if the right proportions of healthy physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep habits were to be understood and applied in the formative years of life it aids greatly in the proper formation of habits while growing up, adolescence and into maturity.
“What we really need to do is bring back play for children,” says Dr. Juana Willumsen, WHO focal point for childhood obesity and physical activity. “This is about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime, while protecting sleep. “ The form of complete 24-hour activity is very vital; it substitutes lengthy period of being restrained or sitting at a place looking into the screen – with more activity in play time, while ensuring that kids get enough good-quality sleep. Quality sitting or inactive time expended in interactive activities with a caregiver that involves no screen time, like as reading, storytelling, singing and playing puzzles, is highly required for healthy child development.
The significant exchanges between physical activity, sedentary behaviour and having good and enough sleep, and the effect they have on the physical and mental wellbeing, were acknowledged by the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, which thought it necessary to define a clear direction pertaining to physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep in young children. It is emphasised that when the recommendations in these guidelines are brought to bear on the lives of children in the first five years greatly adds to their motor and cognitive development as well as health in the long run.
By Morgan Nwanguma