Young children in in preschools will be brought outdoors for physical activities more frequently to encourage healthy habits from a young age. Preschools with full day programmes will be required to have at least one hour of physical activities for children a day. Half of this time must be spent outdoors.
Previously, preschoolers were only required to have half an hour of physical activities a day. This is part of the new framework by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) that was announced on February 23.
In addition to the increase in physical activities, preschools will also have to follow the nutritional requirements set by ECDA such as providing fruits on a regular basis and not serving sugary drinks or deep-fried food.
Having more time physical activities is definitely beneficial to young children as exercise enhances the development of physical strength in their muscles, bones and joints, shares Dr Chan Poh Chong, head & senior consultant, Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, National University Hospital.
“Exercise improves the stamina of children by working the heart and lungs, increase agility and flexibility with joint movements and balance coordination. It also reduces obesity, enhances immunity and accelerates brain functioning,” says Dr Chan.
He add that aside from the physical benefits, confidence and resilience is developed when they garner achievements or overcome difficulties during exercises, building their character. “Learning in children occurs not only in the classroom, but much more in exercising and playing. Singapore children need this more than ever,” he says.
Exercise shouldn’t just be confined to school time and parents should encourage exercise at home. The child should enjoy the activities that have been planned out and it would be good to do them as a family or community, says Dr Chan, adding that an hour of vigorous activity is recommended, and it should be tailored according to a child’s stamina and ability, as well as the weather and environment.