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June 30 2022 10:36 AM ˚
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Bringing your child back up to speed post-COVID

Kids Children play
Through play, children develop their athletic, social, cognitive, and life skills. (Photos: Envato Elements)
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After nearly two years of abnormality due to COVID-19, it is once again springtime, and a semblance of normality has somewhat returned. For new parents, or those who became parents during the pandemic, choices regarding how to engage their children with the rest of the world have come to the forefront, and sports activities are one option.اضافة اعلان

Nearly two years ago, almost everyone was in lockdown. Parents had the luxury of spending every second with their children, especially babies and toddlers.

Despite the increase in quality time, the pandemic’s uncertainty was mentally exhausting. For parents, finding answers was no easy feat; solutions and opportunities that were needed for clarity were uncommon. The need for comfort in knowing what would, could, and should happen, was present, yet everything seemed to be getting more complicated, and more questions than answers came up every day.

All this was happening while some had a baby or toddler crawling around. At some point, it seemed that even the toddler needed new scenery.

Parents improvised and looked through the internet for ideas to keep the child engaged, but for most, frustration began to kick in. And at that point, TVs, iPads, mobile phones, and other electronic devices became more and more convenient for parents.
... Play actually shapes the structural design of the brain. It creates a brain that has increased “flexibility and improved potential for learning later in life”.
Fast forward two years, kids are back at schools and nurseries again. Parks and stores are open and recreational activities are back on — more or less. So, the question remains: should parents sign their children up for sports programs and lessons?

Through play, children develop their athletic, social, cognitive, and life skills. In fact, according to research on brain development by Lester and Russell in their book “Why play-based learning?” they found that play actually shapes the structural design of the brain. It creates a brain that has increased “flexibility and improved potential for learning later in life”.

There are two types of play: structured and unstructured. Structured play is when a child follows directions or rules, and it involves an adult giving instructions. This includes board games, puzzles, and team sports.

On the other hand, unstructured play is when a child can do what interests them without any direction. Some examples are playing on a playground, dressing up, and exploring the outdoors.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) developed guidelines for physical activity for young children: Children between the ages of one and four need at least 60 minutes and up to several hours of unstructured physical activity each day as well as being able to access indoor and outdoor areas.



They also should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time, except when sleeping.

Moreover, children between 12 and 35 months need at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity each day and many opportunities to develop movement skills. While older children, aged between 36 and 60 months, need at least 60 minutes of structured physical activity each day and need to be encouraged to develop motor skills.

In January 2019, a study named “effects of screen time on preschool health and development” was published and produced for the Ministry of Social Development in New Zealand. This study utilized data collected in the “Growing Up in New Zealand” study and examined the temporal trends in screen use, cross-sectional associations with screen time guideline adherence, and prospective health and behavioral outcomes at 54 months given screen use at 24 months of age.


The results indicated that the temporal patterns of screen use tended to increase between 24–54 months. And children that did not adhere to the screen time guidelines at 24 months of age were more likely to have more illnesses and doctor visits, lower physical motor skills, be obese, and exhibit hyperactivity problems at 54 months, “which persisted when adjusted for ethnicity, sex, socioeconomic deprivation, and the corresponding health or behavioral outcome at 24 months”.



A new study from the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada followed almost 900 young children between the ages of six months and two years and found that children who were exposed to more handheld screen time were more likely to have delayed expressive language skills (i.e., the child’s ability to say words and sentences was delayed). They also found that “for every 30-minute increase in daily handheld screen time, there was a 49 percent increased risk of expressive language delay.”

Let us not confuse this with early sports specialization. Structured and unstructured play for children should integrate different sports throughout the week, month, season, and year to avoid burnout and overuse injury.
They’re coming in with major shoulder, knee, and hip problems, including pulled or torn ACLs. And it’s in large part due to the fact that kids are starting sports at very young ages when their bones are still developing.
Allston Stubbs, an orthopedist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, said he had seen more adolescents and preteens with serious overuse injuries than ever before.

“They’re coming in with major shoulder, knee, and hip problems, including pulled or torn ACLs. And it’s in large part due to the fact that kids are starting sports at very young ages when their bones are still developing,” he said.

Furthermore, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3.5 million children under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year. It is essential that the goal of sports activities for children is to develop cognitive, social, movement, and motor skills in a playful, fun, and safe environment; without emphasizing a specific sport or two.

Considering the circumstances, children that were between the ages of six months and two years when COVID-19 lockdowns began to be enforced worldwide are now between two and a half to four years old, and are in dire need of being provided with data-backed, scientific-based approaches to sports and development to provide them with the much-needed support for development.

Parents need to support their children while also minimizing any detrimental effects that may have been caused due to the lockdown. Understanding the need for structured and unstructured play, as well as the benefits and requirements of each is instrumental to shaping a healthy and active future for your child.


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