CHILDREN across Southampton are having a ball thanks to hundreds of pounds of sports and play equipment being handed to pre- schools and nurseries. Youngsters are enjoying the brand new play equipment after taking part in the Haven Fun and Fitness campaign.

The scheme was aimed at encouraging children to keep fit while having fun by providing the free equipment to early years settings.

Among Southampton pre-schools receiving the equipment were the Woodlands Nursery and Pre-School, St Francis Pre-School, Manor Road Pre-School and Lockswood Pre-School in Locks Heath.

Liz Ashford of Woodlands Nursery, which is attended by 42 under-fives, said the children were delighted with the new equipment.

She said: “At the moment it’s all new and exciting, so we’re encouraging the children to explore the equipment independently. In due course, we’ll introduce more -structured play, developing specific skills.”

Whether building up their stock of equipment or replacing old and worn-out kit local play groups have been quick to recognise the benefit of having good quality equipment that encourages the children to be active.

Liz added: “It’s good that the equipment is the right size for younger children. The ‘sticky mitts’ are great fun for them to use and will help them to improve their throwing and catching skills.”

The boxes of sports kit from Haven Holidays include child-friendly balls, bean bags, throw-downs, cones and a coloured parachute for team activities. The news comes as the Daily Echo continues to promote its Beat the Bulge campaign – aimed at getting Southampton’s population fitter after it was revealed just over one in four adults and nearly one in ten five-year-olds are dangerously fat.

Studies have shown that obesity not only affects medical health but may also cause lower self-esteem.

Children who watch TV more than five hours a day are at five times more at risk of becoming overweight than those who watch two hours a day.

• Parents can register for next year’s Fun &Fitness campaign from September. There is no voucher or purchase necessary, parents simply have to register and leave a message of support.

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