Published On: Fri, Oct 10th, 2014

How To Get Kids Active

Kathy Fahim
Latest posts by Kathy Fahim (see all)

How much spare time do you have each day to dedicate to your child’s physical activity? Perhaps if you choose not to sleep you could find more time! But like everyone else, you are probably time poor, have competing demands, work commitments, other children to look after etc. The Australian Government Department of Health ( recommends that pre-school aged children (3-5 years) “should be physically active every day for at least three hours”. This sounds utterly impossible, but the message is that we can provide physical opportunity “spread throughout the day” rather than in an unachievable three hour block. Here are some basic ways you can get your pre-schooler active that will form part of your everyday and are easy to be consistent with:

Around the house: Set up some routines that happen almost daily so you do not have to reinvent games every time you head outside such as encouraging your children to check the letterbox with you. You could have a race or make it an adventure, looking at new things along the way including squatting to the ground and discovering new things in the sky (catch the plane/ butterfly; jump and touch the cloud); carrying treasures from the letterbox back to the house. The same thing can happen when taking the bins out or bringing them in. Kids can help pull the big empty bins in and get a thrill from being strong enough to move such a large object.

If you are lucky enough to have a tratrampolinempoline and/ or a swing set encourage your children to go outside and play (supervised independent play; together with you and/ or a sibling); make a chart and write the number of consecutive bounces down each time to beat their score for the competitive kids. Encourage your kids to come up with a routine or add some bounces in different planes (eg tummy bounce; knee bounce; bottom bounce etc) for the more creative kids. Kids become confident with their bodies and skill development through experiences.Get some help with the seemingly endless task of washing and pegging clothes out and packing them away. It is much easier with a portable washing rack to get the kids to assist with the removal of pegs and clean washing into the basket but this is a brilliant activity to develop fine motor skills over time for sports that use a catch or a grasp such as tennis, table tennis and netball to name only a few.

Host a play date: Not only are you encouraging social skills by hosting a playdate, you are also encouraging your children to play cooperatively together or competitively if you and they choose to. Mums are always keen for their kids to have opportunities to socially interact and develop the skills with similar aged children. Encourage your child and friend to play outside; draw up an old-school hop scotch for them or have them draw a massive chalk drawing on the driveway (gets them up and down; squatting and moving through different planes and it washes off relatively easily). Give them a space to play they can divide in half (similar to a hand ball square) with a range of balls and/ or bats and see what happens. You would be surprised what the kids can come up from rolling rallies to multiple bounce tennis and handball rules. Pegs are brilliant for keeping score. Kids will be more inclined to play their own games than those they are imposed on them.

Say “NO” to training wheels: They’re everywhere, beautiful, shiny new bikes with matching seats and helmets as well as training wheels. If you choose to purchase a bike with training wheels, take the training wheels off and hide them straight away, take the pedals and the crank and chain off for a later date and let the kids ride it like a balance bike. Children who use a balance bike (metal or timber frame-only bike) from a very young age virtually as soon as they can walk confidently increase their chances of confidently riding a pedal bike earlier, with greater skills and have greater longevity riding than their counterparts. Get them scooting along on a balance bike and the kids will love every minute of it as they discover their new (fast paced) skill and independence. Once they can balance and scoot with 2 feet in the air at a good pace, you can consider putting the pedals and associated parts back in or moving them to a pedal bike. Note: this is not the time to put the training wheels back in, keep them hidden forever.

Fundamental skills: Parents are generally good at teaching the skills of the sports they have played themselves. Some parents may not have had a good experience at sport and shy away from teaching any sport skills. It is essential for a child’s development to expose them to a range of physical activities, the younger the better. The fundamental movement skills are:

Throwing and Catching: These are essential skills for most sports pursuits that involve a ball. Backyard cricket is a great way to introduce multiple skills and encourages both underarm and overarm throwing and catching. Use a bigger ball (such as a spiky echidna ball) for smaller hands or a slower moving ball to keep younger children engaged and successful.

Hitting and Kicking: Use balloons to play ‘keep it up’ and move around keeping the balloon off the ground with hands/ without hands/ with feet/ using different body parts. Balloons are more fun, and best of all they are slow through the air and allow the kids the time to manipulate their bodies to continue with the game. Although the kids will love to play with and against you, a wall is a great opponent. Draw a chalk target on such as a bulls-eye or grid for more fun.

Static balance/ hop/ skip: Kids love copying, you or other kids or animals. Find some pictures or make some poses they can copy and hold for a few seconds. This is great for their balance; body and spatial awareness and will give them strength as they develop stabilising muscles in their growing bodies (as it will yours). An old fashioned skipping rope is awesome for cardio with many of the world’s best tennis players travelling with one in their tennis bags for fitness. Encourage your kids to skip for a period of time, faster, slower or some tricks. Hopping on one foot and skipping seem like basic skills for adults but are new and tricky movements for young kids, encourage them to practice these every day. Holding one hand when kids hop is an easy way for them to start to get the idea.

Sprint run/ side step/ gallop: Moving fast with different leading legs and using different movement patterns is vital for different sports such as rugby and football to evade defenders. Play games with your kids where they have to run slow and then fast, remember they won’t be able to keep the “fast” up for too long and this is ok as sprinting is more shorter distances. Get them to roll a ball and collect it after a count of 5, the faster they roll in, the faster and further they have to run! Side stepping is moving laterally with a lead leg and uses the large abductor muscles of the leg. It also allows sport participants to move their bodies while tracking something else such as a ball or an opponent and is paramount in sports such as hockey and tennis. Galloping is a fun way to move and gives the kids a chance to work out left from right and dominant or favourite leg to non-dominant leg, especially important when lining up to kick a ball and taking the last step on their non dominant leg to ensure they kick with their dominant leg.

Jumping/ leaping: Kids amazingly can often lift another child, which means they are almost lifting their own body weight. Could you do that? Funnily enough, they often find it difficult to “lift” their own body weight off the ground by jumping and leaping. This is not due to a lack of strength it is entirely due to lack of coordination, exposure and a chance to practice. Ask your kids to use two feet take offs and landings when jumping. Get some speed up and start leaping – place some markers or chalk targets for them to leap to like lily pads on the ground. The further apart the lily pads, the higher the kids have to jump so start close and progressively move apart. All together these activities should come close to if not go over the recommendations of 3 hours per day! Remember not all the activity happens in your home; kids attending day care and pre-school get loads of physical activity!

By Kathy Fahim

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