What are the essential needs of young children for a healthy lifestyle? According to Dr Akira Maehashi of Waseda University in Japan, cultivating routines from a young age is of utmost importance. Good personal habits such as regularly exercising and having a proper diet, as well as getting the right amount of rest at suitable time periods each day contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
For a holistic lifestyle, screen time for children must be restricted. In place of screens, children are encouraged to spend at least 30 minutes daily on activities that build balancing, agility, hand-eye coordination as well as motor and social skills. Examples are playing in the playground or ball games with friends. As advised by Dr Maehashi, following the Circadian rhythm, the best time for children to be active is after an afternoon nap. This is because children are the most active during this period as their body temperature rises to the highest level.
Eating healthily at regular timings is also critical in boosting children’s energy. A healthy meal comprises carb, fruit, vegetables, protein and calcium-containing foods. The diet can also be enhanced with the addition of immunity-boosting food. To aid in proper growth development, having a full breakfast before 9 A.M. is crucial. Breakfast is the most important meal as it replenishes the stores of energy and nutrients lost during sleep, which children need for learning.
Rest includes naps and night time sleeps. A sleep behaviour research of preschool children in Singapore suggests there is a clear correlation of sleep duration with cognitive functioning, learning and physical growth of children (Aishworiya et al., 2012). A joint research by Dr Maehashi and Kinderland showed that shorter sleep duration or irregular bedtimes distort the ability of preschoolers’ body to regulate properly. This results in children being wide awake when it is bedtime, and feeling sleepy in the daytime. A prolonged disturbance of sleep cycle may have implications on their long-term academic performance and health especially as children grow while they sleep. When they regularly get sufficient rest, they experience improved attention as well.
When children follow the routine of accomplishing these three components on a daily basis, a healthy lifestyle is more easily achievable.