As we know, the past year has been filled with multiple lockdowns and home schooling, all of which has been difficult for both parent and children. This has affected our little one’s routine, especially when it comes to exercise. Activity from an early age should be encouraged as not only does it benefit a child's development, but it also enhances and promotes the development of motor skills, bones and muscles, cognitive and social skills.
So as we move forward and are able to develop routine back into our lives, it’s important we focus our efforts on getting our little ones active again which is why we spoke to Rufus Gordon Dean, Founder & Director of TARKA London.
Hi Rufus, can you tell us more about TARKA London?
TARKA is a developmental exercise company located in London that specialises in getting young children to love exercise from an early age. Rather than just getting children to run around and let off steam, we get children to use their brains, work in teams and begin to understand what it is to be emotionally intelligent. All our classes work on a ratio of 4 children to 1 instructor and we pride ourselves on our young energetic instructors who are at the very heart of what makes TARKA so popular with the children who feed off their energy.
We run classes for children starting from 18 months old all the way up to 8 years old. Within this range of ages, we have 4 different categories. A description of our different classes is on our website where you can learn more about a child’s progression at TARKA. We also offer 4-hour holiday classes throughout all of the holidays and birthday parties where their primary focus is on getting children moving rather than just eating too many sweets!
What was your inspiration for starting TARKA?
I set up TARKA in 2016 after serving for 9 years in the Household Cavalry where fitness was part of my life. I was very fortunate to cycle across the USA, do the Marathon des Sables twice and row across the Atlantic whilst I was serving. Fitness is clearly in my DNA, but my father played a huge part in making me who I am. My father was my biggest inspiration and I want to inspire children to get hooked on exercise just like me.
We all know that exercise is important for adults and it’s just as important for children too. A child that has had a physically active day will have more serotonin running around their brains, sleep better, have a better appetite and generally be happier. One of the principal reasons for setting up TARKA is because I worry about how much time a day children currently spend sitting down staring at screens. My mission is to get children engaged and excited for exercise again is a fun and unique way.
How much exercise would you recommend for children per day/week?
I would recommend that young children who are between the ages of 3-6 should ideally spend at least 180 minutes a day doing a variety of physical activities spread throughout the day, with at least 60 minutes of that time being moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity.
*The NHS recommends that children and young people aged 5 to 18 should:
- Aim for an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a day across the week
- Take part in a variety of types and intensities of physical activity across the week to develop movement skills, muscles and bones
- Reduce the time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity. Aim to spread activity throughout the day. All activities should make you breathe faster and feel warmer
Are there any simple exercise games that children can do at home?
Children are constantly absorbing everything that their parents do. Very simply, if you’re active then they will be too so it’s up to you to set the standard. But not only that, doing exercise together can be used as a great chance to bond with your child.
Following on from the point I made above, my biggest tip is to simply play games with your children. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, then you can use that to play all sorts of games (or now we can, the park is the perfect place). If you don’t, you can still do heaps inside your own house. Here’s my favourite games than can be played both inside & out:
01 Hide 5 items in your house, then time your child to find them. You can then re-hide them in different places to see if they can beat their time. Children will love the competitive element of this and will do whatever it takes, moving, crawling and jumping to find the objects in a quicker time.
02 Get a balloon and put a piece of string across the floor and play volleyball across it. Keep it fun and mix it up by making it harder by getting children to use their non-dominate hand or tell them to only use their feet or head.
03 Use an umbrella (or anything similar), a small ball and then use a cup as the hole to play a game of golf. The winner of each hole gets to place the cup for the next hole. Get creative and use furniture or anything else you have to keep the game exciting. If you want to get your little ones burning even more energy, have a forfeit for loosing each hole, this can be anything from push ups to fun theatrical challenges. Your kids will love playing this game with you!
04 A simple yet fun game is the classic obstacle course. Get creative using sofas, pillows, string etc. then compete against your child as to who can do it fastest.
Exercise is vital
To summarise, getting your little ones to exercise is easy if you keep it light, fun and get involved yourself. It’s also a great way to connect and spend time with your children whilst ensuring you keep the family happy and healthy. However, we know sometimes families need help. If you are located in London, we’d love for you to book a class with us here.