Remind your children that the heart is a very important organ that has a big job. It pumps blood to the entire body and keeps it alive. Review with your children that the heart, blood, and blood vessels like arteries and veins are all part of the circulatory system. This movie will introduce the heart’s functions and how people can care for their hearts and bodies. We recommend screening the movie on Exercise to extend the topic.
Where is the heart? Ask your children to point to the place where their doctor listens to their heart. The heart is in the chest, underneath the ribcage. Children can feel their ribs and sternum to feel the bones that protect their hearts. Explain that the heart is an organ, which is a body part that has a special job. The lungs, brain, and stomach are all organs. The heart is responsible for pumping blood through the entire body. The blood carries oxygen and nutrients and the heart sends the blood around the body to make “deliveries”.
The heart pumps blood into the lungs to collect oxygen. The oxygenated blood returns to the heart to get pumped out into the body. The blood travels through arteries around the body and delivers oxygen and nutrients. Then it returns to the heart through veins and the cycle begins again. You may want children to inspect their arms and look for the bluish veins. Explain to your children that the heart, blood, and blood vessels are all part of the circulatory system. Some children may notice that the word “circulatory” shares similarities with the word “circle.” The blood circulates, or moves through the body in a circular path. It takes about a minute for blood to circulate around the body.
Each time the heart pumps, it beats. Have children hold two fingers very gently against their throats to find their pulse. They should feel their hearts beat. What does it feel like? You may want to have children count how many times their hearts beat in a minute. Then have them take their pulses again after doing an aerobic activity such as running in place or jumping jacks. How did their heart beats change?
Your children should understand that the heart is a muscle. Have them point to other muscles in their bodies, such as the ones in their arms and legs. Explain that when people exercise, their muscles grow stronger. The heart needs exercise too! The heart muscle is different because it never gets tired and never needs to rest. It beats constantly throughout a lifetime. Because the heart has such an important job, it is important to take care of it. Exercise makes hearts beat faster and work harder, and this helps hearts grow stronger and stay healthy. Cardiovascular exercises are activities that keep the heart rate up. Activities include swimming, dancing, jogging, and playing sports like soccer and basketball. Brainstorm other cardiovascular exercises with your children and create an exercise plan together. A little exercise a day can vastly improve health. This can be as easy as taking the stairs instead of an elevator or taking a dog for a long walk.
Remind your children that they should avoid drugs and smoking, which can damage their heart and lungs. Smoking can cause arteries to harden, making it difficult for blood to flow through easily. Over a long period of time, ingesting foods that are high in saturated fat can cause plaque to build up in arteries. Clogged arteries can constrict blood flow and lead to serious health conditions or cardiac arrests. Your children should understand how to make healthy choices when they eat. A balanced diet along with exercise can help them lead long and healthy lives. By encouraging healthy habits now, your children will grow up to become fit and health-conscious adults.
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