London, Nov. 30: British parents will be told to give their babies a daily 10-minute exercise routine to help improve their infants’ mental skills under a government-backed scheme to be launched this week.
As Prime Minister Tony Blair urges all Britons to get fit, new mothers at Sure Start centres, which were set up across the United Kingdom by the government to improve child care provision, will be told how to help children aged three and under to rock, grasp, sit up, crawl and balance.
The step-by-step programme is being introduced in response to evidence that youngsters’ brain development can be harmed by lack of physical movement and concern about the inactive lives of even the youngest children.
The first parents to be given the new fitness programme, which is contained in a 12-page booklet, will be at a Sure Start centre in Solihull in the West Midlands. The manual, funded by a £4,000 lottery grant, will then be distributed to other Sure Start schemes.
Pat Preedy, the joint author of the publication and a former head teacher, said that the advice to parents was necessary because modern living meant that children were less active and had fewer opportunities to crawl around on the floor.
“With the use of baby walkers and bouncers and specially designed chairs, babies do not crawl and explore as much as they used to,” she said. “They are therefore missing out on much- needed physical exercise and sensations.”
“Because of sudden infant death syndrome we now tend to lie babies on their back. They then have less opportunity to push themselves up and develop their neck muscles.”
“Even something like the thick-soled shoes we now put on very young children can hamper their ability to balance, which is initially based on sensing through their feet.”
The introduction of the exercise routine was prompted by research at the Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, which found that physical movement was essential to a child’s brain development.
Researchers found that children who grow up without experiencing the full range of movements are at a neuro-physical disadvantage that limits their ability to learn.
Preedy, who is now the head of research and development with Global Education Management System, a company that runs independent schools, said the new booklet offered a range of “keep fit” options.