It is recommended that children should have 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day and should spend no more than two hours per day using electronic media such as video games or television. With children spending a lot of time at school, childcare centres and after school care, these become a critical setting for intervention. They provide access to physical activity opportunities for children, young people and their families, instilling the importance of physical activity at an early age.
Ideas for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, children and young people to become more active:
Infants (birth to 1 year)
- Encourage them to reach and grasp by placing toys just out of reach.
- Play push and pull games with balls and soft toys.
- Play music to encourage playful movements.
- Encourage movement and play during bath time.
- Choose ‘active’ toys such as boxes, pots, pans, streamers, hoops and toys that encourage reaching, stretching, crawling and moving. Play materials don’t need to be expensive and can be found around the house.
Toddlers (1-3 years) and pre-schoolers (3-5 years)
- Choose ‘active’ toys – play with different sized balls, twirl and run with streamers, ribbons or hoops.
- Play with balloons – punch, kick or throw them to keep them off the ground.
- Play games – try hide-and-seek, obstacle courses, follow the leader, stuck in the mud, or tip/tag games.
- Move to music or try action songs like ‘ring-a-ring-a-rosie’ or ‘heads-shoulders-knees and toes’.
- Walk to places rather than driving or using the stroller.
- Create an obstacle course using items from around the house – try boxes, sheets, chairs and tables – kids will love exploring under, over, through and around the course that you create.
- Encourage jumping games – make an imaginary river using a rope, or an imaginary log using a pillow for children to jump over.
- Digging and building in the sand, either at the beach or in a sand pit.
- Playgrounds offer a wide variety of experiences for children to be active – climbing, swings and slides are great opportunities for active play
- Playing with pets is fun way to get kids moving.
- Encourage children to be independent and to explore the world around them. Allow them the freedom to create, imagine and direct their own play, while maintaining a safe environment. This will also help your child’s confidence grow!
- Being outdoors is best – just make sure kids have sun protection, such as sunscreen, hats and shade. If the weather is not suitable, head indoors and build cubby houses or play hide-and-seek.
- Competitive sport is not recommended for children under five years. Some great alternatives include structured activities like water familiarisation, recreational gymnastics and dance taught by qualified instructors.
Children 5-12 years
We can all play a role in supporting and encouraging kids to be active and healthy.
By offering kids a range of physical activities, you can help them develop an active approach to life that may stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Kids gain valuable experience and can learn skills such as running, throwing, jumping, catching and kicking, by participating in a variety of physical activities. Active play and informal games, as well as organised sport, provide opportunities to develop these skills, which help to build their confidence and gives them more options to take part in a wide range of activities as they get older.
Cycling and walking on neighbourhood streets and paths also provide kids with skills that make them more street-smart and aware of their surroundings. Swimming is another activity that is not only healthy, but will teach kids about safety when they are at the beach or the pool.
- Include physical activity in family outings.
- Encourage and support walking and cycling to school.
- Think of active alternatives when you hear “I’m bored”.
- Have a box at home and in the car with balls, a Frisbee or a kite and you will always be ready for action.
- Encourage children to replace time spent surfing the net, watching TV and playing computer games with more active pursuits.
- Negotiate a limit on time spent surfing the net, watching TV and playing computer games.
- Talk with your child’s school to increase physical activity opportunities.
- Talk with your local government about support for walking, cycling and physical activity opportunities in your neighbourhood and community.
- Walk and talk – practice spelling, multiplication or other homework with your child while walking.
- Give gifts or toys that promote physical activity such as bats, balls, skipping ropes, skates or bikes.
- Support active play, recreation and participation in sport.
Children 12-18 years
Most teenagers find that they get less active as they get a bit older. Think about all those games you used to play when you were a kid. Without those, you’re probably not as active as you used to be. And school gets harder too, leaving even less time to get out and do things. Inactivity really kicks in once we hit the teenage years and it usually affects more girls than boys.
The solution of course is activity, and it doesn’t need to be strenuous. A daily walk is enough to make a healthy difference. The benefits of keeping active when you are a teenager are huge. It will help you relax and sleep better by relieving stress and tension. It builds up stamina and improves concentration. And socially, it’s the perfect way to make new friends or keep in touch with old ones.
- Try walking, skateboarding or bike riding for short trips.
- Participate in vigorous activities such as football, netball, soccer, running, swimming or aerobics.
- Choose a range of activities you like or think you might like to try.
- Be active with your friends. You are more likely to keep active if it’s fun and you have people to enjoy it with.
- Walk more: to school, to visit friends, to shops, or to other places in your neighbourhood.
- Try to limit time spent watching TV, videos or DVDs, surfing the net or playing computer games, especially during the day and on weekends.
- Take your dog or a neighbour’s dog for a walk.
- Try new challenges – skate, ride, surf, cycle or snorkel.
- Be active with family members – in the yard and on family outings.
- Encourage and support brothers and sisters to be active.
- Try a new sport or go back to one you have played before.
- Take a class to learn a new skill such as yoga, kick boxing, dancing or diving.
- Check out the activities at your local recreation centre, clubs or youth centre.
- Put on some music and dance.
- Remember to always take precautions to avoid injury.
What about inactive children?
Kids who are inactive need encouragement.
Perhaps organised sport is not their thing, and that’s fine. Talk to them and find out what is and see if there is something you can do together.
If your child is just starting to get active, begin with moderate physical activity – say 30 minutes a day – and steadily increase. What about physical activity for children with a disability?
All children should be encouraged to be active whatever their level of ability.
Advice should be sought from health care providers to identify the types and amounts of physical activity that are appropriate for children with a disability.
There are additional resources to help you be active at childcare or school.