Supporting Physical Activity
Children look to you for encouragement and instruction on how to use their bodies. Being physically active with children helps to model skills and teaches them more advanced movements such as skipping, hopping, dribbling and throwing— skills they will need to join in activities as they get older. As role models for children, you should be aware of the importance of physical activity. Early childhood professionals increase physical activity by prompting children to try new activities. Also, the program can encourage children and families to be physically active by displaying posters or making books that promote physical activity available for children.
Early childhood professionals should encourage children to be active and join children in active play. Children learn by watching what adults, especially teachers, do. You can shape children’s attitudes toward physical activity. Children will see that you enjoy being physically active, will believe physical activity is important and will learn and remember movements better. When you express joy during physical activity, it motivates children to participate in the same activity, as well as form positive associations with physical activity.
Here are some ideas to encourage physical activity in your program:
- Share information with staff and parents about how physical activity helps children develop social, cognitive and motor skills, and provides health benefits.
- Provide and participate in training to increase awareness of leading physical activities.
- Remember that it isn't necessary to be experts to model and encourage children’s activity.
- Promote activity in the program with a challenge using step counters or amount of physical activity.
- Talk with parents about ways to be good physical activity role models for children.
- Share positive comments with parents about active play seen during the day.
- Share ideas for games and activities that parents can use at home.
- Ask children questions (How does it feel to run around?) about activities.
- Offer encouragement, such as, "Way to go!" "That was a great throw!"or through smiles and laughter during active time.
Optional Resources for Further Study
- Physical activity for younger children, Raising Children Network
- Best Practices for Child Care Nutrition and Physical Activity Environments, A Guide for Self-Assessment and Policy Development, Contra Costa Child Care Council – Child Health and Nutrition Program
- Move and Play Everyday, Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Health and Ageing
- How to Keep Toddlers Active, The Nemours Foundation
- Why kids are inactive (and why it's not just their parents' fault), ABC Health & Wellbeing