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Physical Activity for Children

Find out why physical activity is so important for children’s brain and body. Watch the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card: The Brain + Body Equation video.

2018 ParticipACTION Report Card: The Brain and Body Equation Video

Growing and Developing

Children are growing and developing their bodies and minds. They are building their balance and coordination, and learning new movements, such as walking, running, jumping, catching, throwing and swimming. They are learning through play with others, alone and by exploring and interacting with the world around them. Physical activity and being outdoors in nature are both key to their development.

Activity, Sleep and Screen Time – How Much and Tips

It is recommended that;

Activity Milestones – The First Three Years

This resource outlines the growth and development milestones related to physical activity for your infant/toddler.

Activity Benchmarks – For 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds

This resource outlines the movement and physical skills related to growth and development for your preschooler.

Play Activities – Ages 1–3

10 fun things to help a your toddler develop good physical skills.

Play Activities – Ages 3–6

10 fun things to help your preschooler develop good physical skills.

For more ideas to get your kids active, try some of these activities, for kids aged 0–12. Children are more active when they are out in nature. See these ideas for how to get your kids out playing in nature!

Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds

It is important for children to have both a healthy body and a healthy mind, as body and mind affect each other. Ignoring either one could affect your physical and mental health. For tips, have a look at our fact sheets;

As role models, we can implement the “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds” approach in the following ways:

  • Focus on protective factors in children, which include: Having a positive body image and high self-esteem
  • Having strong social support systems (e.g., family, teachers, other adult influencers)
  • Feeling a sense of belonging within their culture
  • Role model healthy living behaviours where you live, learn, work and play: Reflect on your own beliefs and attitudes about health, such as body size, eating, activity and how you feel about yourself
  • Set a good example by limiting your own screen time, including cell phone, computer/tablet and television
  • Let children see you enjoying physical activity and engaging in healthy eating behaviours for overall health
  • Demonstrate a positive body image by avoiding discussions about your own or others’ body size, diet and/or weight. Instead, make positive comments about your own and others’ personality traits, skills, abilities and accomplishments
  • Focus on Teaching: Shift the focus away from ‘body weight’; teach kids that healthy bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes
  • Focus on the fun and social aspect of being physically active, and less on the winning
  • Encourage kids to try new challenging activities that develop their body, skills and confidence
  • Teach kids to eat a variety of healthy foods each day and enjoy “treats” in moderation. Encourage kids to listen to their bodies’ hunger and fullness cues

Physical Literacy

Children who are physically literate are more active, healthy and engaged.

What is it?

“Physical literacy is the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.”

– The International Physical Literacy Association, May 2014

Physical Literacy includes developing fundamental movement skills, such as hopping, balancing, running, throwing, catching. This leads to fundamental sport skills, and practicing these in various decision making situations, in a variety of environments: ground, water, snow, ice and air.


Having opportunities to increase physical literacy in children will build their confidence and competence and will result in;

  • Better learning in school,
  • Better mental and emotional wellbeing,
  • Improved social skills,
  • Improved physical health and fitness,
  • Healthier habits,
  • Being on a path to becoming active for life.

Learning how to build physical literacy is a great place to start. Here are some ideas to get you started;

  • Trying out new and different activities where a variety of different movement skills can be learned, practiced and then combined into more difficult movements. Looking for some ideas to help you teach children a variety of different fundamental movement skills? See the Best Start Have a Ball Together website for a list of activities.
  • Making activities fun and challenging, and learning through positive experiences that involve success and failure. See Toy’s for Tiny Tots for helpful ideas.
  • A gradual introduction to an audience is best. Start off with one person, then two or three, and so on.
  • Making sure the activity starts off comfortable and playful and keeping everyone involved together helps to improve the confidence in being active in front of others.
  • There are lots of tools for educators in schools and for child care providers, to assist them in providing excellent opportunities for physical activity, and to help build physical literacy in children.
  • For more information on Physical Literacy, see the Physical Literacy Canada Definition