Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

This Exercise Lark Is Just Child's Play

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

This Exercise Lark Is Just Child's Play

Article excerpt

You're never too young for exercise, as Tyneside tots are discovering. Reporter JACK HUNTER looks at how children are fighting fat through fun and games

Keeping youngsters fit and healthy is one of the biggest concerns of any parent, especially as around 20% of children in the UK are overweight and 2.5% are classed as obese.

And in the age of microwaved junk food or lazing around indoors, getting children to keep fit can seem like an impossible task.

But one North East mum has decided to take action to get exercise into kids' lives right from the beginning.

Kate Willis, a 32-year-old mum-of-one, runs the Action Kids group at Maple Lodge Nursery in Gosforth.

"I've always wanted to get into teaching, more so when I had my little boy," explained Kate. "I got the idea to start the Action Kids group after a friend started up a similar club in Yorkshire three years ago.

"I want to combat child obesity and help early learning. Our activities account for 90% of the national curriculum's early learning goals."

The group caters for youngsters as young as 18 months and goes up to the age of four. A private class on Wednesdays at Coxlodge Community Centre on Jubilee Road in Gosforth includes slightly older children, and parents are also encouraged to join in.

Kate, who lives in Gosforth with James, her 22-month-old son, is eager to explain the advantages of any early exercise plan to parents.

"It's really rewarding to see the benefits," said Kate. "The kids progress, and become more agile and more balanced. The youngsters also progress quicker if the parents do the activities as well. There's also some evidence of the activities helping kids with autism develop better."

The Action Kids group was started by former teacher and Ofsted inspector Val Sabin and has been running since 2001. The scheme is practiced in more than 4,000 schools throughout the UK. Kate has been in charge of the Gosforth group since March.

"We use music in a lot of our group activities," explained Kate. "The music we use relates to the activity, so we have slow deep sounds for things like giant strides, and light, fast tunes for bunny hops.

"We also sing nursery rhymes, to help build their vocabulary and extend their knowledge of the world. Also, we'll often use props to go with the activities. We'll use a parachute, and pretend it's an ocean, to teach the kids about ocean life.

"We'll also lay down coloured markers to help them with spatial awareness. Or sometimes we just hop around like bunnies to teach them about rabbits!

"Every week, we build on previous activities and raise the bar a little. Each week, we have one core programme of activities, as well as five minute warm-up and cool-down activities."

The warm up features a lot of singing, stretching and waving, as Kate leads the children in a rousing chorus of 'We are the Action Kids'. …

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