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|Claire Hamilton is a Startwell Physical Manager working across Birmingham to support early years settings to promote physical activity.|
The Best Start in Life is a manifesto that underpins the messages that we as a Startwell team are promoting within all early years settings in Birmingham.
Physical activity is a complex, multi-dimensional behaviour that is influenced by a wide range of factors operating at individual, social and environmental levels. Young children have relatively little control over their behaviours, therefore social and environmental characteristics that facilitate or impair physical activity are of particular importance.
As an early years professional, I recognise the important part that developing physical literacy in children plays. Unfortunately, I feel that physical development is not given the high regard that it needs despite it being made a prime area within the Early Years Foundation Stage. We need to create environments that allow children to be active and learn through active play. The UK government currently recommends that children under five capable of walking should be physically active for 180 minutes per day to improve cardiovascular fitness, musculoskeletal health, weight and co-ordination. Evidence shows that the majority of children are not achieving this target.
Successful behavioural interventions in early years settings have the potential to improve nutrition and physical development in children and promote the continuation of such behaviours into adulthood. Childhood obesity is a growing public health concern. Sedentary behaviour and poor nutrition are known to be key contributors to weight gain in the general population (NICE, 2014).
Startwell’s aim is to improve the knowledge of early years practitioners through training and role modelling in their settings. Training and upskilling the adults that work with our youngest children is key in embedding physical literacy through to adulthood.
At a recent Startwell Leads Forum we introduced the manifesto to over 20 leads that support local settings to implement the key messages. The feedback was overwhelming. The main feedback was that the document is clear and simple, which allows it to be used within all settings with all staff, parents and local partners.
The Manifesto has become part of our toolbox and as a Startwell team we share it with all settings to support their increase of knowledge and the ability to share the messages with a wider audience so that the recognition of the importance of physical literacy is shared as widely as possible.
For more information about The Best Start in Life manifesto and why physical activity is so important for under fives visit www.bhfactive.org.uk/beststart
For more information on the work of Startwell in Birmingham please visit www.startwellbirmingham.co.uk