WHILE summer may have failed to materialise this year, winter is one season we can always count on to be punctual.
With the days getting colder and nights getting darker, parents face the age-old dilemma of how to keep young children entertained – and active – when sending them outside to play would involve kitting them out like Arctic explorers.
But help is at hand. As part of National Children’s Activity Week, Tumble Tots, which run weekly play sessions across the city helping children – and parents – to learn the benefits of physical activity at any early age, are full of ideas for healthy and educational indoor play.
Jo Letelier-Lobos, who runs Tumble Tots Edinburgh East branch, says: “Kids can have fun and keep active in all seasons, not just during the summer when it’s nicer outside.
“Next week all the children who attend our classes will be getting a leaflet to take home with them about activities that they can do indoors during the colder months, such as races, hide-and-seek and jumping.
“These days children don’t get enough exercise when they are very young and seem to get even less when they are older. .
“If we show them that it’s fun to be active at an early age then, hopefully, they will take that lesson with them through life.”
However, it’s not just about the children, with parents also encouraged to work up a sweat.
April Wallace, who runs the Edinburgh West branch, adds: “When parents come to classes we always try to point out the things we are doing that can be done at home – activity doesn’t just need to be once a week. Even something as simple as putting lolly sticks into a plastic bottle can help a child build coordination.
“We also encourage parents to try singing and dancing around the house, or you can play games with throwing bean bags through hoops, or even just into a box, or rolling a ball back and forth between you across the floor. It’s great when parents realise how much else they can do to aid their child’s development.”
Tumble Tots is also using National Children’s Activity Week to raise awareness and funds for Tommy’s, a charity funding research into the causes of premature birth, stillbirth and miscarriage.
April, pictured below with four-year-old daughter Trixie, says: “We’ve raised funds for Tommy’s for many years, it’s such a worthwhile cause. The parents really embrace the idea, and the kids get so excited. This year we’re focusing on opposites, and each child is being sponsored to complete ten different tasks involving actions.
“Different ages will be doing different activities and parents can tick them off as they go. So they’re raising funds and having fun.
“My kids have all been at Tumble Tots, that’s how I got involved in the first place, and I’ve seen how much they’ve gained by it over the years. My youngest, Trixie, who’s four, still goes and she just loves it. The classes offer play areas that give children access to fun physical activity while also encouraging communication skills, social skills and building confidence. It’s so important to get kids physically active at a young age, especially when we know so many children are seriously struggling with weight problems.”
For Andy Hixon, who owns the award-winning Time Twisters soft play centre at Sighthill, the key is to tap into the imagination of young minds.
He said: “The trick is to not make it seem like exercise, to make it fun. Education is very important to us. Time Twisters is themed around Ancient Egypt and we make learning about it fun and interactive. This can make kids more receptive about learning about history in general and seeing it as something relevant and interesting.”
Children are also learning valuable skills at Maddie & Mark’s Play Centre at Ocean Terminal, which includes a mini interactive town.
Owner Imogen Douglas says: “The kids get a wee shopping list that says, for example, four cucumbers and three carrots. They learn to recognise which is which, how to count things out and how to ‘pay’, using a little price list. There’s a shoe shop where they can measure their own feet, and we also have a little construction site where they can build and knock down walls made of yoga bricks. We only opened recently and the response has been unbelievable, kids seem to absolutely love it.”