LAST week, we discussed long-term athletic development. This type of program is integral in keeping citizens healthy for life and might be a foundation for more sports and physical activity participation for our children.

The first phase of long-term athletic development is called Active Start. From zero to six years of age, boys and girls need to be engaged in daily active play. Through play and movement, they develop the fundamental movement skills and learn how to link them together. At this stage developmentally appropriate activities will help participants feel competent and comfortable participating in a variety of fun and challenging activities and games. It is a sad state when most children at this age are glued to the TV, computer tablets or a cellphone. I must underscore that health for life starts at a young age.

To ensure that children have a healthy start in life, note these:

■ Physical activity should be a fun part of a child’s life every day. This is essential for healthy child development.

■ If you want children to be smarter, engage them in active and physical play. This builds important connections within the brain, and between the brain and the children’s muscles.

■ Children must have opportunities to explore risk and limits in safe environments.

■ Children must be able to have unstructured access to a wide variety of colorful toys and equipment.

■ Activities should help children feel competent and comfortable participating in a variety of fun and challenging activities and non-competitive games.

■ For children with disabilities, access to age and disability-appropriate adapted equipment is an important contributor to success being physically active.

■ Expose children to daily physical activity with an emphasis on fun.

At this stage, it is important for children to have fun and get a lot of movement daily. Access to safe areas for play (grassy and with rubber mats) are of importance as well as interactions with other children.