The ‘iPad Generation’: 7 Ways To Keep Your Toddler Active in a Digital Landscape
You’re sitting in a restaurant and notice a small child at the next table; he’s tapping away on a tablet, perhaps playing a game. You go for a walk through the park and pass a toddler in a push chair; she too is engrossed in the world inside the smartphone in her hands.
These have become such familiar sights to us now that we barely even notice anything is amiss. Welcome to the ‘iPad Generation’, where more and more children are learning to use a touchscreen before they even learn to hold a pencil. Sure, these marvelous devices can work wonders with keeping our children quiet while we get the dinner sorted or when we need a moment to ourselves. But are they becoming dependent on technology in order to be entertained?
“The current generation is hunched over screens from an early age and the iPhone has become the dummy of today’s society"
- Steven Ward, UK Active
A recent report carried out by the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity has thrown up some disturbing figures around the amount of exercise our toddlers and young children are getting each day. It has been found that only 9 per cent of children between the ages of 2 and 4 years old are getting the recommended three hours of daily physical activity; an incredibly worrying statistic when you think about it.
This means that a whopping 91% of the UK’s toddlers are leading relatively sedentary lives, getting less than the three hours of exercise per day. This is causing experts to believe Britain’s children are now ‘in the grip of an inactivity crisis’, which is being attributed to the ever increasing amount of time our children spend playing on tablets, smartphones and other gadgets instead of playing more active, traditional games.
Research into the effects of exercise on childrens’ general health has shown that regular physical activity can help prevent serious conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, skeletal deficiencies, heart disease and can even encourage better psychological health.
So, whilst it is clear that many childrens’ apps and games can provide valuable educational benefits, it is also evident from this recent study that parents and carers need to strike a healthy balance of physical activity and time spent in front of screens if we are going to turn this situation around.
“We need to get the habits right really early to encourage movement and spending more time outdoors” - Elaine McNish, BHF National Centre
What can we do?
Studies have indicated that children living with parents who are generally more active are more likely to mirror this behaviour and naturally be more active themselves. Likewise, if we as parents are spending a great deal of time on our smartphones and other devices, so our children will follow suit.
So what can we do to get our little ones more active on a daily basis? It turns out there are lots of ways to naturally build more physical activity into our toddlers’ daily routines; here are just a few of the best ones
1. Be their role model
As we’ve already mentioned, your own lifestyle as a parent is what sets the scene for your your child’s life. With this in mind, it’s great to let them see you regularly being active around the house and throughout the day so they can mirror this for themselves. Get them involved in whatever it is you’re doing whenever you can, even if it’s just the household chores!
2 Build exercise into your day
Following on from the previous point, building more movement into everyday activities is a brilliant way of upping the amount of exercise for both you and your child. If you can, try walking into town for groceries rather than driving to the supermarket or take a walk to the library for some new books. Try to get your little one out of their push chair as often as possible as well to maximise the amount of walking they do. You can also swap the escalators for the stairs whilst out and about for that little bit of an extra workout!
3. Go swimming
Making exercise fun is a great way of making it not feel like exercise at all, and swimming is a perfect example of fun exercise for children of all ages. Splashing about in the local swimming pool is a fantastic way for your toddler and the whole family to stay fit and healthy and have bags of fun in the process. Besides, learning to swim is a very important life skill for children so you’ll kill two birds with one stone!
4. Move playtime outside
Remember the endless hours we spent in playgrounds as children? A trip to the park never fails to get little ones super excited, so why not take more advantage of this? If the weather isn’t too wet, get their coats on and head for the nearest park or playground; they’ll burn so much energy and they won’t even realise it!
Making more use of your garden is also a great way to get them outdoors on those days when the park just seems too far away. Bikes, trikes, balls and skipping ropes are perfect outdoor toys for getting them off the couch and moving around.
5. Adapt TV time
There’s nothing wrong with sitting your toddler in front of a great DVD every now and again; it keeps them quiet for a good long while after all. However, children should spend no more than two hours watching TV in one day, and ideally no more than one hour at a time. A great way to make the most out of TV time is to look for DVDs and programmes that encourage children to move and dance along with the characters; that way you get the best of both worlds!
6. Sign up for sports and classes
There is a huge range of activities available for young children these days, so encouraging your toddler to join in early on can keep them fit and active whilst also nurturing hobbies and extra curricular interests. If they like sports, try the local childrens’ football, swimming or tennis teams. Or perhaps gymnastics or dance classes would be more their style? Whatever they choose, it may cost a little extra cash but the benefits your little one will receive from the extra exercise and socialisation make it more than worth it.
If we can use these methods to keep inactivity at bay, we could potentially create a much brighter outlook for our own children and the next generation to follow. Steven Ward from UK Active believes that we need to find a way to use technology to help create a more active lifestyle for our children, rather than try to remove it from their lives altogether. If we can do this, we can turn the ‘iPad Generation’ into a positive phenomenon as opposed to the crisis it represents today.
To find out more and to support the British Heard Foundation’s “Best Start in Life” manifesto please visit the following site: Best Start
To find additional support on how to keep your child active please visit the following resources:
There are also some great leaflets that you can read for:
For details of swimming classes in your area: