Childcare Activities

10 Ideas for Increasing Physical Activity in Your Setting

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There is a growing problem of obesity and lack of physical activity in young children today, with a quarter of preschoolers assessed as overweight or obese, and two-thirds of primary school children unable to reach recommended fitness targets. It’s vitally important, then, for nurseries to play their part in promoting an active, healthy lifestyle to try and help combat this trend.

As well as helping children to maintain a healthy weight, physical activity has lots of other benefits:

• It helps build strong muscles and bones
• It helps develop coordination
• It helps build confidence and self-esteem
• It helps with concentration levels
• It helps promote good sleep patterns
• It decreases the risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes
• It supports outdoor play and learning

Here are some ideas for early years workers who want to increase the level of physical activity in their childcare settings, and make sure that the children get plenty of exercise every day:

1. Races

Most children love racing against each other, either in teams or individually, and you can make the activity as competitive or non-competitive as you like (depending perhaps on the age of the children). There are lots of different kinds of races to choose from – how about an egg and spoon, space hopper or sack race. Use space markers to set out tracks and make it more of an event.

young children physical activity

2. Obstacle courses

The great thing about this activity is that you can use whatever resources you have available – these could include hoops, tunnels, cones, balls, cardboard boxes, dressing up clothes and so on, as well as in situ outdoor play equipment such as climbing frames.

3. Parachute games

There are lots of games that you can play with parachutes – if you look online you’ll find plenty of ideas. For example, you could fill the parachute with balls and then see how quickly you can shake them all off (or down the hole in the middle), or play a version of tag where you call out two names and the children have to swap places by running around (or under) the parachute.

4. Throwing games

Again there are plenty of throwing and catching games to play with children, aimed at different ages and involving varying amounts of physical activity. As well as games that involve throwing things from one child to another, try throwing to hit an object, for example, the classic ball-in-the-bucket game, or target games.

5. Hopscotch

This game has been keeping children active for hundreds of years (if not thousands – it’s claimed that the Romans used to play a version of hopscotch). It’s so popular that many nursery (and school) playgrounds have a permanent hopscotch court painted on the ground, but you can always draw one with chalk or buy a hopscotch mat.

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Childcare Activities For Your Early Years Setting

6. Singing and dancing

Combine physical and musical activities by holding a dance competition, or playing musical statues. There are also lots of songs with actions, such as ‘The Hokey Cokey’, ‘If You’re Happy and You Know it’, ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’, ‘A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea’ and ‘Dingle Dangle Scarecrow’. Make different playlists to mix things up a bit.

7. Trikes and scooters

If you have enough outside space, you could consider dedicating part of it to a suitably-surfaced track, and investing in plenty of trikes and scooters to go round. Many children will happily play on wheels for hours, and it’s a great way of keeping them active with minimum input (other than supervision), although there’s also the option of more organised games.

8. Bubble popping

This is a very simple but immensely fun activity that is great for getting children running and jumping around. Just keep blowing lots of bubbles (perhaps using a proper bubble-making machine for maximum effect) and get the children to try to pop as many as they can (watch out for soapy surfaces though – this one works best on grass).


9. Action games

Encourage lots of physical activity through playing games such as Simon Says and Follow my Leader. Another good action game involves getting the children to move around like different animals (eg “Pretend you’re a kangaroo” or “Pretend you’re a snake”).

10. Outings

Take the children out of the nursery for regular walks and outings. This could be a trip to your local playground, where they can burn off some energy using the play equipment, or perhaps a visit to your local nature reserve for a minibeast hunt.

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