Physical Activity in Childcare

How To Promote Physical Activity In Childcare

a girl getting some exercise by running around her childcare oval

At Kids Kinder we recognise the critical role that play has in promoting physical activity in childcare. To get the best results from play, it is vital to select activities that are age appropriate.

Play time should be broken up into small structured and unstructured chunks throughout the day for both toddlers and preschoolers. Babies should be given “tummy time” two or three times daily. Play should have sufficient variety in it to not become too predictable and should be conducted both indoors and outdoors, weather permitting.

Tips To Promote Physical Activity In Early Childhood:

The importance of physical activity in early childhood cannot be overstated. Finding physical activities that engage and stimulate the child should be front of mind. It doesn’t matter what the physical activity is, nor does it matter how good that they are at it, the most important thing is that they actually enjoy the activity. Not all activities are going to be suitable for each individual child, but there will be something across the wide range of physical activities that every child finds rewarding and stimulating. Whether it is waking, jumping, skipping, climbing or involves catching, hitting or bouncing a ball, there will be a physical activity that engages and motivates the child.

From a childcare perspective, it is imperative that a variety of physical activities be provided to cater for all tastes and to keep the child excited and motivated to try new physical activities. Physical activities should vary in intensity and duration. Small chunks of intense activity should be mixed with moderate physical activities. All moderate holistic development activities undertaken as play contribute to the child’s overall health and well-being.

The key to making physical activity enjoyable is to encourage the activity rather than to coach for performance – to express enjoyment in watching the child play rather than expecting that the child succeed or “win.” The encouragement can be provided directly in the form of praise particularly when the child is struggling with a new physical skill, or indirectly by role modelling active behaviour so that the child can see others participating and enjoying the activity.

Physical activity can be further encouraged by organising activities like walking, gardening or even camping. Providing toys that encourage physical play is also a useful stimulus. Having a ready supply of balls, bats, play spades and the like is always handy.

What Role Should The Educator Play?

The educator has a vital role in promoting health and well-being in childcare. They can help children to take the opportunity to learn new physical skills and to practice new learned movements while maintaining a positive, enthusiastic and encouraging attitude towards all physical activities. The educator can hone their skills for providing holistic development in childcare by taking the opportunity to enroll in any available courses or make use of any resources that will help them gain a greater understanding of promoting physical activity in early childhood.

It is useful to develop a working relationship with the child’s parents to enable the exchange of ideas and plans to further stimulate the child’s physical development. Being abreast of what physical activity that the child’s family is doing can also help you to structure physical activities around the child’s experience and abilities.

Advice For How Parents Can Assist:

Keeping an open line of communication with the childcare centre enables the parent to reinforce any physical activities in the home environment. The parent can also assist by actively role modelling healthy behaviours and habits to encourage physical activity around the home. 

The Major Benefits Of Physical Activity

a young white infant participating in yoga exercises with photo taken mid stretch

Regular physical activity has tremendous benefits for the young child. Being engaged in regular physical activity through extra programs not only helps with a child’s physical growth and development, it also helps to embed healthy lifestyle habits that can last a lifetime and help in a number of developmental areas.

The major benefits of physical activity are:

  • Better mental health. Regular physical activity helps the child to build self-esteem, develop self-confidence and overcome feelings of stress. This positive development manifests in fewer behavioral and disciplinary problems and greater levels of concentration and focus. Physical activity stimulates “good” endorphins in the brain to promote feelings of well-being.
  • Easier social interaction with children of the same age leading to better social skills.
  • More regular sleep patterns as the physical activity will induce feelings of tiredness.
  • Endurance play activities including jogging, skipping, dodgeball, “chasey” or tag as it is sometimes known are important as they build a healthy heart and lungs. Endurance activities involve the continuous movement of large muscle groups, increased heart and breathing rates and the expiration of sweat. Regular participation in such activities helps to build endurance levels, maintain fitness and control weight.
  • Play activities that encourage bending, stretching and reaching help to  promote flexibility. Maintaining flexibility promotes good posture and helps children to perform normal physical activities without experiencing discomfort or pain. Flexibility play activities include gymnastics, gardening activities like digging and raking, dancing , some active playground activities, yoga exercises and stretching routines.
  • Strength building play exercises help to build stronger muscles and improve posture. When a child is involved in an activity that involves working against resistance, they will strengthen their muscles and bones over time. This will not only assist with their physical development but help them to maneuver and lift large objects by themselves. Strength play activities include such play activities gymnastics, climbing monkey bars and calisthenics. Other daily activities that can expand on strength development include stair climbing, helping to carry household items like garbage and groceries.
  • Physical activity helps to build motor skills, particularly when play activities involve hand eye coordination.

Promoting physical activity in childhood should be part of every childcare center’s focus as the benefits of engaging in structured and unstructured play help to generate feelings of self-worth, good social behaviour and better mental health as well as helping the young child’s body to develop physically.