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Getting kids off to sleep at a reasonable hour and then staying asleep until your alarm goes off is the holy grail of parenting. Anything is possible after a good night’s sleep and we all know it makes such a difference if everyone has had enough shut eye. The parents at The Little Gym often comment on the positive difference their classes make to children’s sleep, so we asked Amy Perkins, The Little Gym Director of Early Years Curriculum and mother of two, for her recommendations.
The Little Gym has 13 locations across the UK and focuses on the physical and emotional development of children between 4 months and 12 years through gymnastics.
Getting the oxytocin flowing
Anyone who has given birth or breast fed a baby will know the power of oxytocin. Known as the ‘love hormone’ or the ‘hormone of attachment’, oxytocin really is good stuff and helps bond us with our families and loved ones. A surge in oxytocin, which happens when we feel loved, makes us feel more trusting, relaxed and tranquil. Because it counters the effects of cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’, it reduces blood pressure, anxiety and fear. It is with these magical calming powers that oxytocin can help all of us on our path to sleep.
To generate this hormone in your child, you need closeness and touch. Rough and tumble play is always popular with kids and is a lovely way to have fun with your child. Partner gymnastics is great for this, with exercises such as aeroplanes; when you lay a child on an adult’s shins. For smaller children, pop their tummies on your head and pretend to be a helicopter. If you aren’t feeling particularly energetic you could opt for the classic tickle games, like ‘This Little Piggy’ or just hold them close and dance together. Have a look at this The Little Gym at Home class on spinning and rotation for babies for some more inspiration.
Building their little muscles
Building muscle has been shown to promote a good night’s sleep and there are some great activities you can do to promote muscle growth in children that we love doing at The Little Gym. In fact, gymnastics is one of the very few activities you can do that is weight-bearing and uses the whole body. At home you could help your child try climbing, crab or bear walks or play a game of hang tough on a branch or monkey bars once parks reopen.
Steeping up the aerobic activity
Aerobic activity helps to get children’s blood pumping round the body, releases feel good hormones, strengthens bones and not to mention tires kids out, so they are ready for a good night’s sleep. Children should be aiming for at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a day and it is great to mix this up to help develop different movement skills, muscles and bones. You could try doing some running races or a game of tag in your local park or go for a bike ride; perhaps have a dance party or try a The Little Gym at Home class via The Little Gym UK YouTube Channel.
Check out The Little Gym blog for more tips and ideas for keeping your wee ones happy, healthy and on the move. And lastly, here's to a good night sleep for all of us.