Making sure young children and their families have plenty of opportunities to engage in regular physical activity is a key element in keeping children healthy and ready to learn.
Physical activity is not only good for keeping children's hearts, minds, and bodies in shape and disease-free, but it also supports young children in developing motor skills that influence many other areas of their development. For example, children develop gross motor (large muscle) skills when they walk, run, jump, slide, or climb. They develop fine motor (small muscle) skills when they weed a garden or pour sand into buckets. In turn, these skills support children's overall development as they learn to write, solve problems, and ride bikes, among many other things.
What can you do?
Parents, teachers, and caregivers play a key role in shaping children's attitudes and behaviors about physical activity. Making physical activity a FUN part of children's daily routine is an important first step. A few other ways that one can encourage and maintain children's interest in regular physical activity include:
- Make physical activity fun for children. This can mean anything physical that a child enjoys, such as taking the dog on a walk, dancing, kicking a ball, or flying a kite. Find out what interests the child and provide many opportunities for the child to engage in that activity regularly.
- Provide a variety of materials and equipment that your child can choose from (whenever possible). Physical activities do not have to be expensive. Walking, running, and dancing require nothing more than a pair of shoes, for example. Providing other materials or equipment for young children to use and explore increases their chance of finding activities that are suited to their unique likes and desires.
- Limit television and/or video game time. There are a number of recommendations by professionals regarding the amount of time each day that children should be allowed to watch TV or play video games. The most important thing for a parent or caregiver is to choose a time limit that is healthy and stick to it every day. When children learn your expectations, they are more likely to engage in other activities that they enjoy—activities that are healthy and fun.
- Take advantage of community resources. Most communities have walking trails, low-cost gyms and parks just waiting for you to visit them. Check out these links:
Department of Transportation
Finding Good Walks and Hikes
Washington State Parks
Local Parks Near You
Keep children safe
There are easy ways to keep children safe during indoor and outdoor physical activity:
- Make sure materials and equipment are age-appropriate and in good condition
- Always supervise young children during play
For more information about physical activity for young children, visit these websites:
- Let’s Move!
- "Get Moving Today!" Activity Calendar
- Bright Futures Physical Activity Development Chapters
- Eat Smart Play Hard (USDA)
- SHAPE America Society of Health and Physical Educators
- What Do Parents Need To Know About Children's Television Viewing?
- ABC for Fitness: Activity Bursts in the Classroom