Children at this stage are becoming more involved in organized sports, but nothing surpasses outdoor exercise and playground time in importance for their physical well-being and development. Screen time—in front of the TV and computer—should be limited, which will lead to more active play. With encouragement, critical lifetime fitness habits can be established during this age span.
At this stage, children experience changes such as these:
- Increase in body strength and hand dexterity through physical activities
- Improved coordination and reaction time
- Increase in large-muscle coordination, leading to success in organized sports and games
- Increase in small-muscle coordination, allowing them to learn complex craft skills
- Refinement of finger control
- Increased stamina (They can run and swim farther.)
- Approaching or reaching puberty for girls, which can make them look grown-up
- Enjoyment of rough-and-tumble games with peers
- Sexual development, which is more rapid in girls than boys
- Refinement of group game skills and team sports skills such as throwing, catching and kicking
- Development of manual skills and interest in things such as cooking and carpentry
- Slow and steady growth (Arms are lengthening; hands are growing. Girls are growing faster.)
What Parents Can Do
It’s never too early to get your child on the path to a healthy lifestyle. These activities and suggestions can help children at this stage in their physical development and in the establishment of sound fitness habits.
- Don’t allow a TV in your child’s bedroom, and limit time for TV, computers and video games to one to two hours per day. That will promote more time for active play.
- Encourage your child to participate in at least one hour of enjoyable, age-appropriate physical activity per day.
- Make sure your child is completing three types of physical activity three times a week: aerobic activity such as running; muscle strengthening such as climbing; and bone strengthening such as jumping rope.
- Provide plenty of fruits and vegetables and limit high-fat foods, added sugars and salt.
- Prepare healthy food for family meals: lean or low-fat meat, chicken, turkey and fish; green vegetables like broccoli or spinach, or orange vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes; whole-grain bread; low-fat milk or cheese.
- Children may not ask for healthy snacks like baby carrots or whole-grain, low-salt crackers, but if you offer them consistently and provide them at times when your child is likely to be hungry, there’s a good chance they will be eaten.
- Make sure your child wears an approved, properly fitted helmet every time they ride a bike.
Keep This in Mind
Children of this age span are very active and need frequent breaks from tasks to do things that are energetic and fun to them. So while they need to develop the self-discipline to complete homework and household chores, it’s important to allow them the opportunity to get plenty of exercise, get outdoors and enjoy playtime. Remember that play is critically important in many areas of development, even as children advance toward adolescence.