Family Health

Why Active Play Is So Important

Aug 20, 2015

The key to a healthy life is physical activity at a young age.

Activities should incorporate many different skills through a variety of forms and should be maintained throughout a child’s day. Safe, stimulating environments are important, as are positive role models.

Make Sure Children Are Active

Young children need regular, vigorous, physical activity—active play—to develop and grow properly. Active play strengthens bones, muscles and the brain and establishes connections between all of them.

A physically active lifestyle is crucial for life-long health and physical and emotional wellbeing. To develop good habits, children should be physically active every day.

If children don’t develop good habits of physical activity when they are young, they increase their risk of being overweight or obese later in life. Obesity is linked to a number of health and mental health problems.

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What Is Physical Activity?

Physical activity means taking part in active play and games that use the large muscles of the body. Whole body play of almost any kind, especially outdoor play, provides the movement that children need.

Play that uses the hands and fingers is also important—it helps develop fine motor skills.

Active play is important for children with disabilities. Some activities may need to be modified so kids with disabilities can be active and stay safe.

Active play is vigorous enough if children breathe faster and deeper, start to sweat and get warm, can feel their heart beat faster or have redness in their cheeks.

How Much Physical Activity Is Enough?

Children under the age of six should be physically active for a short time during every hour that they're awake.

  • Infants (up to one year): Daily activity is important. Provide toys and simple objects that encourage them to move.
  • Toddlers (1-3 years): At least 30 minutes of adult-organized activity daily. At least 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity—especially outdoors.
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): At least 60 minutes of structured physical activity every day. At least 60 minutes of daily unstructured physical activity is recommended—especially outdoors.

Reduce Screen Time

Children up to two years of age shouldn’t spend any time watching television or screens. Children between three and five years of age should be limited to one to two hours of screen time each day.

When Should Kids Start Physical Activity?

As soon as possible! Encourage young children to roll over and crawl by putting a toy out of their reach. Don’t put it too far away. Let them play with it when they’ve reached it.

Remember to provide a safe, stimulating and interesting environment in which children can physically explore their world.

Kinds of Physical Activities

Body control skills: balance, moving the arms and legs in rhythmic ways to music
Locomotor skills: crawling, walking, running, skipping, jumping, leaping, rolling
Sending and receiving skills: rolling a ball, throwing, catching, kicking, hitting things with a bat or stick

Children should learn to be active indoors and out. Make physical activity a family event. Kids learn from positive role models!

Article Author The Moblees
The Moblees

The Moblees is a multi-platform "Movement Movement" designed to promote healthy active living among Canadian children. Along with partner organization ParticipACTION, The Moblees aims to provide early intervention strategies to reduce childhood obesity and to inspire a foundational change in the way children and their families move through their daily lives. 

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