Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines: Tips and Ideas for Children (0-5 years)

Practical ideas to help increase physical activity and minimise sedentary behaviour for children aged 0-5 years.

Page last updated: 06 February 2014

With so many opportunities to be active, before you know it your child can easily meet their daily recommended amount of physical activity.

Move and Play Every Day

For Infants (Birth to 1 year)

  • Encourage them to reach and grasp by placing toys just out of reach.
  • Play push and pull games with balls and soft toys.
  • Play music to encourage playful movements.
  • Encourage movement and play during bath time.

Encourage Toddlers (1 to 3 years) & Pre-schoolers (3 to 5 years) to:

  • Play with different sized balls.
  • Play with balloons – punch, kick or throw them to keep them off the ground.
  • Blow bubbles and chase them through the air.
  • Play games – try hide-and-seek, obstacle courses, follow the leader, stuck in the mud, or tip/tag games.
  • Move to music or try action songs like ‘Ring-A-Ring-A-Rosie’ or ‘Head-Shoulders-Knees and Toes’.
  • Walk barefoot on different surfaces – try grass, carpet, concrete or sand.
  • Pretend to move like different animals.
  • Play dress ups and act out different roles.
  • Walk with your child to places rather than driving or using the stroller.
Note: The use of baby jumpers and baby walkers is discouraged. The evidence shows they can restrict the muscle development required for independent walking and may cause injuries.

More Ideas for Active Play

Active play is a great way for kids to be physically active. Remember, you are the most important role model in your child’s life. By being active with your child you can encourage their lifelong enjoyment of physical activity – and benefit your own health at the same time.
  • Choose toys that encourage activity. For infants, boxes, pots, pans and hoops can encourage reaching, stretching, crawling and moving. For toddlers and pre-schoolers, choose toys and play materials – such as balls, bats, tricycles and kites (with supervision) - that encourage movement and help develop skills. Play materials don’t need to be expensive and can be found around the house.
  • When you can, involve all of the family – try walking to the park, playing soccer in the backyard, or going to the zoo as a special treat.
  • Encourage children to be independent and to explore the world around them. Allow them the freedom to create, imagine and direct their own play, while maintaining a safe environment. This will help your child’s confidence grow!
  • Competitive sport is not recommended for children under 5 years. Some great alternatives include structured activities like water familiarisation, recreational gymnastics and dance taught by qualified instructors.
  • Being outdoors is best – just make sure kids have sun protection, such as sunscreen, hats and shade. If the weather is no good, head indoors and build cubby houses or play hide and seek.

Ideas for Reducing Sedentary Behaviour and Screen Time for Children

  • Make meal time your family time and turn off the TV.
  • Turn the TV off after the program has finished.
  • Set limits and have rules around screen time.
  • Make your kids’ bedrooms TV and computer free.
  • Play music or stories on CDs instead.
  • Take breaks on long car trips – stop at a park or rest area.
  • Give kids a break from the stroller and let them walk for some of the journey.
  • Try walking, or, riding a bike or scooter with your kids, for short trips.
Make your move - Sit less - Be active for life!

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