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A middle-aged woman with light brown cropped hair clad in a green blouse with spaghetti straps and faded denim shorts pushes a stroller towards the park. She sits in one of the empty benches and turns the stroller facing her.  She then pulls out a cigarette stick and lighter from the back pocket of her shorts, lights it and says, “Hay, naku, Princess! Mabuti ka pa at patulog-tulog lang,” She glances towards one-year-old Princess who is fast asleep and continues to smoke.

After a few minutes, she throws the cigarette butt on the pavement, steps on it and pushes the stroller when she sees someone approach them. She quickly grabs a menthol candy from the other pocket, removes the wrapper and throws it on the grass and hurriedly sucks on the candy.

“Ang aga naman ng bisyo mo, Flor. Kawawa naman ang alaga mo,” says a petite old lady dressed in a floral duster. Flor replies, “ Nagpapa-relax lang po Manang. Pauwi na nga po kami.” “Sige, sabay na tayo. May pinapabigay si Ma’am Maria kay Ma’am Aimee mo,” says Manang.

They walk side by side and stop infront of a brown gate about 500 meters from the park. Flor opens the gate, pushes the stroller inside and waits for Manang to enter. She yells, “Ma’am Aimee, andito po si Manang. May pinabibigay daw po ang nanay niyo,” and hovers in the background.

What happens if you allow your caregiver free rein to do certain activities with your baby, like taking a stroll in the park?

As a parent, you decide what activities your child needs. You appoint your caregiver as the coach who will carry out your instructions on how to train your child. Thus, you have to consider the time, trait and team in choosing the right exercise for your child. Any physical activity that allows your child to move his body and limbs can be considered a form of exercise. It can either be a free play or structured one but it should be age-appropriate.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education in the US provides guideline for different age groups. Infants have no specific requirement, but their physical activity should help promote gross motor and fine motor development for movement and skills. Toddlers should spend about one or two hours of physical activity. Out of this, 30 to 60 minutes should be spent on planned activity while the rest is unstructured or free play.

Choose the physical activity that will be appropriate to your child’s motor and physical developments as she learns to walk, run and skip. Creative play and art therapy are recommended to develop and enhance a child’s imagination. Thus, instead of giving dolls with unrealistic vital statistics and dimensions, you’re better off giving toys that will allow them to use their skills and do role-playing.

Expose her to nature at an early age. Let her hear the sounds that animals make. Bring her to the zoo and introduce her to different plants and creatures in their natural habitat. If you have a small farm or garden, let her take her shoes off or slippers so that she can walk barefoot on the grass. Allow her to be grounded and embrace the trunk of the tree even in a park nearby.

As a parent, you are like a team owner who looks at the welfare of every individual player in your team, in this case your child. You get a head coach, who is your caregiver, who will help your child attain the best possible potential In terms of her physical development and as much as possible avoid injury to your most valuable player.

Excerpt from "WANTED: PERFECT YAYA (7 Easy Steps to Equip Your Child's Caregiver) by Dr. Josephine. T.R. Holgado

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