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Active Children

Preschool Play

​​​​​​​​​​Preschoolers usually have lots of energy. They often test their limits at the playground, in the backyard, or while running, tumbling, playing games, or exploring.

Children are learning to move

It's a good idea to encourage your child to be active for many reasons. Children need to be active for the same reasons as adults. There are health benefits and they get to know what they like to do and what they're good at.

Your child is always learning and discovering new things. During the preschool years, they're learning how to move their bodies and do different types of activities. Many preschoolers seem to go nonstop as they learn skills like jumping, running, rolling, and throwing.

What is physical literacy?

Physical literacy means understanding and feeling confident to be active and move your body.

Children who have strong physical literacy are more likely to stay active as they grow up. They're also more likely to learn new activity skills easily. For example, if you teach your child to throw a ball, they'll be more comfortable playing slow-pitch, football, or Frisbee later on.

Learning basic physical literacy skills at a young age is important for girls and boys. Often girls don't have strong physical literacy in their teen or adult years because they weren't as active in their preschool or school age years.

How much activity does my child need?

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends the activity guidelines below for children 4 years old and younger.​

  • Children younger than 1 year need to be active several times a day on the floor playing with others.
  • Children between 1 and 4 years old need to be active for at least 180 minutes (3 hours) a day. This includes different activities, in different places, and activities that will help develop movement skills.

  • When children are 5 years old, they need to be playing energetically for 60 minutes (1 hour) a day.

    ​Tips about Preschoolers

    • Active preschoolers are different than active adults or older children. Preschoolers are very spontaneous and have shorter attention spans. For example, an adult might like to go for a long walk, but a 4-year-old would likely lose interest in a long walk.
    • For preschoolers, focus on gross motor skills and learning to move around easily. It’s a good idea to have them to do a bunch of different activities to help develop many skills.

    • For example teach your child to:

      • ​​​​​jump and throw
      • walk, run, and skip
      • kick or throw a ball
      • swim
      • skate
      • ride a bike
      • Choose activities that your child will enjoy. This makes it more fun and you don't have to force them.
      • Safely show your child new skills and be a role model. 
      • Whenever possible, be active outside so children can explore nature and outdoor play spaces and equipment.

      Towards an Active Future

      The preschool years are a great time for your child to develop active habits that can last a lifetime. Encourage them to move often. Set limits on screen time and being inactive. Be a good role model.

      The more your child moves, the more comfortable and confident they'll be with their body. This will help them for the rest of their lives.​

      Remember that your child is just learning. They may move too fast, take risks, and be slow or clumsy at times depending on the activity. Always be patient and teach them to move safely. Have fun watching them learn and grow. Do activities together (like a game of tag) that are fun and take lots of energy.

Current as of: September 7, 2018

Author: Healthy Children and Families, Alberta Health Services