Sporting activity is fundamental for the growth of our children in a healthy and complete way, both from a physical and psychological point of view.
But at what age would it be better to start and, above all, which sport to choose?
Until school age, the activity must be understood as a game and fun, not as a discipline and sporting technique. Paediatricians recommend that your child practise comprehensive sports such as swimming, gymnastics and pre-athletics until at least 7/8 years of age, to ensure overall development and strengthening of the body. It is also important to understand your child’s preferences and help him/her choose a sport that amuses him/her and adapts to his/her personal inclinations.
At what age can you start practising sports?
- 0-3 years: the ideal activity is swimming because you can start from the first months of life. When the child starts to walk, walks are recommended to introduce physical activity in his daily life (about 20-30 minutes, 3 days a week).
- 3-5 years: introducing some simple rules and some tools, such as the ball, helps children to establish the first positive associations between exercise and fun. Another ideal activity, besides swimming, is gymnastics (artistic or psychomotor), which helps to develop coordination, sense of rhythm and balance, as well as the perception of oneself and space. Running should also be encouraged, because at this age it is a natural activity for the child.
- 6-10 years: this is the moment when you reach the maximum potential for development and coordination, necessary to start learning the different sports techniques. At this age, sport teaches discipline, but also to socialize, to manage competition and accept victories and defeats.
Choosing the most suitable sport is not only a question of evaluating the technical characteristics of the individual activities. It is essential to understand which discipline best suits the child’s personality.
Sport as an expression of the individual personality of the child
When a child commits to a sport for the first time, there are psychological components that should not be underestimated.
In general, sporting activities can be divided into:
- Non-contact individual sportssuch as swimming, running, tennis, gymnastics, athletics, skiing and cycling. These are all sports that require a particular intellectual effort to sustain fatigue. They are particularly suitable for specific personalities, because the child is gratified by the idea of being able to carry out a technically difficult activity independently.
- Individual contact sports, such as fencing and martial arts. They require great concentration and contribute to psychological growth. These sports activities are suitable for both impulsive and hyperactive children and, on the contrary, for more reflective and fearful children. In the first case, sport teaches you to control leaps and bounds and follow the rules of the game without doing or getting hurt. In the second case, children learn to make more instinctive decisions, to develop safety and self-esteem.
- Contact team sports, including football, basketball and rugby. These are activities that develop the ability to collaborate and help you feel part of a group. The focus is on the common goal and teamwork; moreover, the children learn to respect the different characteristics and roles of their companions and to share with them victories and defeats.
- Non-contact team sports, such as volleyball, which are useful for learning to play together and helping team mates in difficulty. It is particularly suitable for quiet children, not inclined to physical contact, but with a determined personality, because it helps to improve decision-making skills at decisive moments.
A special mention should be made for sailing, which is difficult to classify in the previous categories. It is, however, a very educational sporting activity, which allows the child to stay in touch with nature and to respect it in all its aspects. From the point of view of psychological growth, it helps to deal with the unexpected and overcome it, as well as to be able to manage oneself independently in the most critical situations.
During the first year of a child’s life, new parents must learn not only to take care of a newborn baby, but also to respect new schedules and commitments, hitherto totally unknown. Among these appointments, the most important are certainly the so-called Health Reports (HR), or periodic checks by the paediatrician.
What is an HR ?
HRs are paediatric controls, established by regional health authorities and planned to ensure continuous monitoring. They are used first of all to check the growth and general state of health of the baby, but also to receive useful information and suggestions for parents.
At every paediatric check-up, the doctor should:
- Perform a general assessment of the newborn;
- Measure weight, height and head circumference;
- Verify the psycho-motor development;
- Check hearing and sight.
In addition, the paediatrician can perform more specific checks to diagnose any disorders or diseases, as well as providing information on child behaviour, nutrition and vaccination calendar.
Fundamental paediatric examinations within the first year of life
The appointments not to be missed during the first 12 months of life of the newborn are:
- 1 month of life: The first visit must take place no later than 45 days after birth. The paediatrician will have to carry out the first auxological check-up (i.e. the child’s general growth process). He will also take care of controlling the oral cavity, skin, the health of heart, lungs, abdomen and genital apparatus. During this first visit, the Ortolani-Barlow manoeuvreshould be performed, to exclude the possibility of congenital hip dislocation.
There will also be advice for parents onbreastfeeding, sleep-wakerhythms, baby responsiveness and safety systems to be adopted in the car and at home.
- 2-3 months of life: In this second visit, the paediatrician repeats the auxological check-up and verifies the psycho-motor and sensory development of the newborn. If the growth curve is not optimal, the doctor will be able to consider with the parents whether to supplement breastfeeding with powdered formulas.
- 4-5 months of life: during the third HR the focus should be on reactions to sensory and vocal stimuli, in addition to the relationship with the mother. The paediatrician will take care of checking the motor progress (ability to sit and grasp objects) and will give the first advice on weaning.
- 8 months of life: The fourth visit to the paediatrician is dedicated to the Boel Test for the control of sight and hearing, as well as verification of the babbling and mobility of the child. At this point, new solid foods can be added for further weaning.
- 11-12 months of life: During the last appointment, the paediatrician will check in depth the psycho-motor and sensory development, to verify if the child understands the stimuli and starts talking. It is important to observe how it relates to the environment and the people around it. Parents should be informed at this point about the correct diet to follow, fluoride prophylaxis for teeth and other growth-related measures in general.
Paediatric visits during the first year of life are essential to verify that the newborn is growing in the right way, in terms of both motor and psychic development. In addition to these routine visits, there will also be specialist visits if the paediatrician deems it necessary.
Just when we hoped to have left the winter behind a new Siberian weather disturbance has frozen every little hope of bringing the children to play in the park without having to scream every 2 minutes “cover yourself or you will get a sore throat!” or “do not take your clothes off, you are sweaty and will get ill!”.
Strange as it may seem, it is not the cold that actually causes the much feared sore throat, but rather the temperature changes that alter the mucous membrane and promote the entry and proliferation of viruses and bacteria.
The result of these uncertain periods of time are the famous “season sicknesses” (hoarseness and pharyngitis), with symptoms ranging from lowering of the voice tone to difficulty swallowing, fever and irritation between nose and throat (rhinopharyngitis).
The perfect natural remedies for children
Since 70% of the cases are viral infections and only 30% are bacterial, there is often no real need to resort to medicinal products and antibiotics. When it comes to a simple sore throat, without other more serious associated symptoms, it may be useful to resort to natural remedies that, in most cases, are effective:
- Honey: its soothing properties can help fight infections and bacteria, clear the airways and alleviate the discomfort caused by sore throats. The fluid texture acts directly on the mucosa and lubricates it to help eliminate mucus quickly. In other words, grandmother’s good old remedy of hot milk and honey before going to bed is always valid.
- Propolis: in any format (candy, drops, syrup, spray) Propolis is a natural product that can be useful to combat inflammation of the throat. Another lesser-known, but actually equally valid, use is as a disinfectant and healing agent in the case of small canker sores and mild irritation of the oral cavity.
- Myrrh extract: a little less known than the first two, but equally useful, is found mainly in the form of spray throat. The effectiveness of myrrh extract-containing throat products lies in the fact that they form a local protective barrier on the mucous membranes, reducing contact with external aggressive agents and thus the risk of infection. Not to be underestimated, myrrh is also an effective antioxidant and improves the immune defence mechanisms.
It is therefore better to avoid crowding paediatricians’ studies when a few home-made precautions would be enough to cure a simple sore throat. It is advisable to consult your doctor if there is no improvement after 3-4 days, or in case of high fever, blocked airways and prolonged difficulty in swallowing.
Can sore throats be avoided, or, even better, prevented?
It seems paradoxical, but in reality it is important not to raise the temperature of the heating above 19°-20° to avoid that the passage to the outside is too abrupt – better to wear vests and heavy jumpers! Then get used to the children going out (adequately covered) even if it is cold: in these cases the dry and excessive heat of the closed environments can worsen the symptoms.
Finally, prevent seasonal illnesses with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, to increase the intake of vitamin C. When it is not enough – we know, it is often a challenge to get children to eat fruit and vegetables – evaluate together with the paediatrician the use of a vitamin supplement.