MOST parents would struggle to get their 18-month-old to pay attention for just a few seconds.
But tots as young as that are being invited to take part in keep-fit classes at several nurseries across the Lothians.
The new health and fitness programme, called Stretch-n-Grow, has already been running at the Capital’s Priestfield House Nursery for more than a month and will be rolled out to another four nurseries today.
It sees children take part in half-hourly workouts once a week to music, using a variety of props ranging from feathers, parachutes and textured balls to bean bags, hoops and small musical instruments.
Kirsty Pacitti, owner of Priestfield House Nursery, said introducing regular, fun exercise at a very young age had plenty of benefits.
“My background is in PE, so I know how important it is for children to be active and how much it contributes to their overall wellbeing,” she said.
“The most important thing for me is them enjoying physical activity. If you can plant that seed early, that’s the most important thing.
“Children are never too young to be engaged physically as long as it’s a well-structured, age-appropriate programme. “You see their faces light up – healthy children make happy children.”
Around 14 children aged three to five are currently taking part in the ten-week programme at the private nursery, but mother-of-two Mrs Pacitti, 44, who lives in Fairmilehead, plans to offer the classes to younger children.
Valerie Grothier, whose three-year-old daughter Cara has been taking part, said: “The class themes and the fun they have is great, and having spoken to other parents, I know they are getting great feedback.”
Trial sessions have taken place at Careshare Port Hamilton Nursery, Careshare Nursery at the Royal Infirmary, Links Nursery in Musselburgh and Little VIPs Nursery in Portobello, which were all due to introduce the programme from today.
However, one mum said structured classes for 18-month-olds were unnecessary.
Childminder Angela Steedman, who lives in Corstorphine, said: “Children of that age, just through normal play, should be getting enough physical exercise. They have got a natural tendency to want to be on the move.”
The Stretch-n-Grow programme was started in America by Jill and Bob Manly in January 1992, before arriving in the UK around a decade later. About 7000 children in the UK take part in weekly classes.
UK operations director Deno Davie, 46, who lives in Duddingston, said: “It sounds almost crazy to a lot of people that we should introduce it to children as young as 18 months, but it’s about laying down positive habits at a very early age.”