I have a boy who is five and a girl who is three. This translates into a life of aaaaaaarrrrgggghhh.
The reason the early days are best described as aaaaaaarrrrrgggghhh can be summarised in one word. Activity! Each child is different of course. Some children are good at numbers, some have outstanding language skills, some (although it’s not really fashionable to suggest it) are thick, but the one thing they all have in common is that, if they are physically able, they move, all the time.
This is not movement in the way adults categorise it of course. Pre- school children and toddlers don’t worry about exercising three times a week to develop their aerobic capacity and VO2 max. My son is staggeringly disorganised when it comes to his upper/lower body split. I have tried to suggest that he organises his sessions using only compound moves in a circuit followed by some high intensity intervals to torch that fat but he’s got different ideas all together.
I’ll give you an example. For the last few months my son has travelled around the house, and any number of public venues, on all fours. He thinks he’s a tiger. A kung fu tiger to be precise. He likes tigers and he loved Kung Fu Panda. I say loved because he only got to see it once. My daughter still has the bruises from the post film excitement so sadly the DVD had to be ‘lost’ along with the bow and arrow, the Bob the Builder power drill and any musical toys received at Christmas from people who don’t have to put up with the noise.
Just think about that for a moment. He spends all day moving around on all fours. If you are reading this in suitable clothing drop down to the ground and move across the room on all fours any way you can. Hard going isn’t it! He does that from 6am till bedtime.
When my daughter was two she went through the ‘on things/ off things’ stage. She would get onto a chair and back off it again approximately 478 times an hour. That sounds gruelling enough I know but bear in mind for my daughter the seat area was at chest height. In an adult this would be evidence of an Olympic level of physical conditioning. For my daughter it was just something she did because she knew it made steam come out of daddy’s ears.
These examples are just two that spring to mind immediately. They are not performed in isolation either. They happen in conjunction with running back and fore for no apparent reason, fighting, playing football, scooting, cycling, terrorising the dog, dancing to ‘bust a move’, dressing up, crying, screaming, losing dad’s phone, scribbling all over mum’s new diary, climbing on the windowsill in the nude........... and defecating. Then it’s time for breakfast.
Let me be clear. I’m not disagreeing with the idea that toddlers should be active. I just can’t imagine a situation where they aren’t. If I got up one morning and decided to turn my kids into the type of children channel five would want to make a documentary on (I’m thinking “Brittain’s fattest idiots” or “When Toddlers Explode”) I just wouldn’t know how to achieve it. I could easily feed them McDonalds four times a day and sneak it into hospital for them later on down the line but short of nailing them in place I simply could not stop them moving.
The suggestion from the government is that activity and good nutrition helps prevent a whole host of horrible ways to die. It argues that a life of eating well and exercising leaves you with a long list of really lovely and interesting ways to die. I am a keen runner myself and I’m sure that my 20 miles a week is guaranteeing me the pleasure of passing to the next world via the bonnet of an out of control Ford Focus rather than from something like cancer or diabetes.
All sound advice for adults and that ever increasing band of 9 year olds who’s Facebook status is always ‘sitting’ but completely unnecessary for the average toddler. It’s like issuing guidance that men approaching 40 should consider purchasing a bum bag – I mean who needs advice to do that? It’s a fabulous bit of kit.
So where does this leave us in terms of the ever increasing obesity levels, chronic illness, suffering and death? Will the activity guidance for toddlers set children on the road to a lifetime of zumba and yogalates? No! Those who want to exercise will and those that don’t won’t.
Experts argue that human beings are meant to move and exercise. This has seen the rise in popularity of functional exercise and nutrition programs based on the lives of cavemen and primitive cultures. The fact is that our sedentary lifestyle is not going against nature it is following nature’s blue print for our species. Nature has given us the intelligence and ingenuity to come up with any number of ways to do less and eventually this will kill us. But something has to. A meteorite did for the Dinosaurs – human beings are constructing their own demise with cars, dishwashers, pre-prepared vegetables and those soap dispensers that you don’t even need to plunge.
Meanwhile toddlers all over the world will do what they are meant to do. They will run, jump and play in more creative and energetic ways than any adult could ever imagine. Some will compete in the Olympics, some will get so fat, that a poorly paid Latvian woman has to help them off the lavatory. Either way, guidance from the government will make sod all difference.