According to the Toronto Star, seven industry experts discussed, due to growing families in Downtown Toronto, condominium suites are finally getting larger instead of smaller. Larger condominiums will encourage more families to remain downtown and raise their children in condos.
“Outside of daycare, children are not getting a lot of physical activity.” says Gunn-Moghimi
But as these larger new condos are few and far between, the immediate infrastructure in the downtown core must improve to support families. “There aren’t many parks around here,” Gaea Gunn-Moghimi, registered early childhood educator and senior director of the family development centre at the Central YMCA says, “Outside of daycare, children are not getting a lot of physical activity, at least in the downtown area.” I met her late April to help me understand what can be done for families with young active children living in downtown Toronto.
As we get further into our discussion, it is a concern that gross motor development isn’t encouraged in families living in condos. It is also a concern amongst other ECE workers I spoke with in the Yonge and College area. For most families, according to Gunn-Moghimi, the daycare is where children get most of their exercise. Developing gross motor skills are essential to the body’s movement throughout its life.
Gross motor skills are required to control larger muscles of the body and are important for major body movement such as walking, maintaining balance, coordination, jumping, and reaching. Gunn-Moghimi mentions that it is obvious that the children who live in houses can climb stairs better than children who live in condo as their leg and the core are muscles are more developed than those who live in condos. To address this issue, the Central Y built in stairs in all classrooms to help strengthen these muscles for condo kids living around the Y.
Gross motor skills in infants are as simple as rolling over, sit and stand to exercise large muscles – larger muscles are used to achieve these skills before crawling and eventually, walking. As toddlers, children must continue to exercise to enable kids to run, jump, throw and climb, in order to continue to use their muscles into adulthood.
If there are limited parks downtown for kids, what’s a parent to do?
As more families flock to the downtown core, and builders are brainstorming on ideas to make child-friendly amenities, what can condo-families do in the meantime to help their kids get the physical activity they need?
With the limited square footage inside most condos there are a number of things parents can do with their growing child. As a busy parent myself, I do understand the difficulty to get out during the week to get my child to burn off some steam. The cold winter months and rainy days are most difficult. Gunn-Moghimi advises, “Have gym activities in the house, or [parents can] set up small mats.” Below are a few of a toddler’s and preschooler’s favourite things that can get him or her moving:
A toy-shopping cart can help strengthen their lower muscles in the legs for new walkers and putting items into the cart can strengthen their upper body. A wagon used on uneven ground especially, can strengthen core muscles.
A balancing beam such as a folding training low beam by Z-Athletic is perfect for any toddler who wants to perform a balancing act, or Gonge Riverstones or Hilltops by Gonge can help develop balance and coordination. These items are stackable or can be folded and tuck away when not in use.
GROSS AND FINE MOTOR SKILLS COMBINED
Crawling is important to a child’s development. In fact, crawling help strengthen the muscles in the palm which are essential to hold small objects such as a crayon or a pencil. IKEA’s Busa tunnel will encourage crawling for the young toddler and imaginative play for the preschooler. And again, this product can be folded and stored easily in any condo.
HAND AND EYE COORDINATION
To some that would require an IPad, but not so! The Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Verdie Chameleon Beanbag Toss is a perfect activity to encourage hand and eye coordination as well as number and counting recognition.
Though these products are geared to your child’s physical development, ensure that they are used in a safe manner and are age appropriate for your child. It’s obvious that your crawling kid, though eager he or she may be, can’t use the balancing beam until a few months down the road (yes time does fly!).
“..take [your kids] to the gym..Get memberships at the YMCA.” Says Gunn-Moghimi
And if these stackable and foldable products still can’t fit in your small condo, “Go up and down the stairs, take them to the gym in the condo, if allowed, in the building.” Says Gunn-Moghimi, and most importantly, “Get memberships at the YMCA.” The two Y’s Gunn-Moghimi mentioned are the Central Y at Wellesley and Yonge, and the West End YMCA at College and Dovercourt. There are a number of outstanding programs for toddlers, preschoolers, and youths at the Y. How do I know? My daughter is in one of them.