Making Physical Activity Part of a Child's Life

Physical activity is a crucial component of a child’s development. Engaging in regular physical exercise not only promotes physical health but also enhances mental well-being, social skills, and academic performance. However, in an era dominated by screens and sedentary lifestyles, it is increasingly challenging to instil the habit of regular physical activity in children.

This blog explores the importance of physical activity for children, provides practical tips for parents and educators, and suggests enjoyable activities to make physical exercise a fun and integral part of a child’s daily routine.

The Importance of Physical Activity for Children

Physical Health Benefits

Physical activity is essential for the overall health and well-being of children. Regular exercise helps to:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: With childhood obesity on the rise, regular physical activity is vital in helping children maintain a healthy weight and avoid related health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Strengthen muscles and bones: Activities such as running, jumping, and climbing help in the development of strong muscles and bones, reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis in later life.
  • Improve cardiovascular health: Aerobic activities like cycling, swimming, and playing sports enhance cardiovascular fitness, promoting a healthy heart and lungs.
  • Enhance coordination and balance: Physical activities improve motor skills, coordination, and balance, which are crucial for performing everyday tasks and participating in sports.

Mental Health Benefits

Physical activity is not only beneficial for the body but also for the mind. Regular exercise can:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety: Physical activity stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters, which help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Improve mood and self-esteem: Children who engage in regular physical activity often have higher self-esteem and a more positive outlook on life.
  • Boost cognitive function: Exercise has been shown to improve concentration, memory, and academic performance. It enhances blood flow to the brain, which supports the growth of new brain cells and improves overall brain function.
  • Combat depression: Regular physical activity can help alleviate symptoms of depression in children by increasing the levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play a key role in regulating mood.

Social and Emotional Benefits

Physical activity also offers numerous social and emotional benefits for children. It can help:

  • Develop social skills: Team sports and group activities provide opportunities for children to interact with their peers, learn teamwork, cooperation, and develop communication skills.
  • Build resilience: Physical challenges and overcoming obstacles during sports and play can teach children resilience and perseverance.
  • Foster a sense of belonging: Being part of a sports team or club can create a sense of community and belonging, which is essential for a child’s emotional well-being.
  • Encourage discipline and responsibility: Regular participation in physical activities can instil a sense of discipline, time management, and responsibility in children.

Fun Physical Activities for Children

Sports and Team Games

Engaging in sports and team games is a fantastic way for children to stay active while having fun and making friends. Some popular sports and team games include:

  • Football: A widely loved sport that improves cardiovascular fitness, coordination, and teamwork.
  • Basketball: Enhances agility, balance, and hand-eye coordination while promoting teamwork.
  • Tennis: Develops motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and cardiovascular fitness.
  • Cricket: Improves hand-eye coordination, concentration, and teamwork.
  • Rugby: Boosts strength, endurance, and teamwork skills.

Dance and Aerobics

Dance and aerobics are excellent ways to combine physical activity with creativity and self-expression. Children can participate in:

  • Dance classes: Ballet, hip-hop, jazz, or contemporary dance classes can improve flexibility, balance, and coordination.
  • Zumba: A fun, high-energy workout that combines dance and aerobic movements to music.
  • Dance parties: Organise a dance party at home or with friends, playing their favourite music and encouraging them to dance along.

Outdoor Adventures

Encouraging children to explore the outdoors can provide endless opportunities for physical activity. Some ideas for outdoor adventures include:

  • Hiking: Discover local trails and nature reserves, and go on family hikes to explore the natural environment.
  • Cycling: Plan family bike rides in parks, along trails, or around the neighbourhood.
  • Camping: Camping trips offer various physical activities such as hiking, swimming, and playing outdoor games.
  • Nature scavenger hunts: Create a list of items for children to find in nature, encouraging them to explore and stay active.

Playground Activities

Playgrounds are perfect for unstructured, imaginative play. Encourage children to:

  • Climb: Climbing frames and walls improve strength, coordination, and confidence.
  • Swing: Swinging enhances balance and coordination while providing a sense of freedom and fun.
  • Slide: Sliding is enjoyable and helps develop coordination and spatial awareness.
  • Run and play: Encourage games like tag, hide-and-seek, and obstacle courses to keep children active and engaged.

Water Activities

Water activities are not only fun but also excellent for physical fitness. Some enjoyable water activities include:

  • Swimming: Improves cardiovascular fitness, strength, and coordination.
  • Water polo: A team sport that enhances endurance, strength, and teamwork.
  • Canoeing or kayaking: Develops upper body strength, coordination, and teamwork.
  • Water balloon fights: A fun way to stay active and cool during hot weather.

Indoor Activities

During bad weather or when outdoor activities are not possible, there are plenty of indoor options to keep children active:

  • Indoor sports: Enrol children in indoor sports like basketball, badminton, or gymnastics.
  • Exercise videos: Use online exercise videos or apps designed for children to follow along with fun workouts.
  • Yoga: Yoga helps improve flexibility, strength, and mindfulness. There are many child-friendly yoga videos and classes available.
  • Dance games: Dance video games that use motion sensors can be an engaging way to get children moving indoors.

Creative Physical Activities

Combining physical activity with creativity can make exercise more enjoyable for children. Some creative ideas include:

  • Obstacle courses: Set up obstacle courses at home or in the garden using household items, encouraging children to run, jump, and crawl through the course.
  • Treasure hunts: Create treasure hunts with physical challenges to complete before finding the next clue.
  • Animal movements: Encourage children to move like different animals – hopping like a kangaroo, crawling like a crab, or slithering like a snake.
  • Dance choreography: Let children create their own dance routines to their favourite songs and perform them for the family.

The Role of Schools and Communities


Schools play a vital role in promoting physical activity among children. They can:

  • Incorporate daily physical education: Ensure that physical education classes are a regular part of the school curriculum, providing students with structured opportunities for exercise.
  • Encourage active play: Provide ample time and space for recess and active play during school hours.
  • Offer a variety of sports: Introduce students to different sports and physical activities, allowing them to discover what they enjoy and excel at.
  • Promote active transport: Encourage walking or cycling to school through safe routes and initiatives like “walking school buses.”
  • Educate on healthy lifestyles: Teach students about the benefits of physical activity and healthy living as part of the health education curriculum.


Communities can support and promote physical activity for children through:

  • Public parks and playgrounds: Maintaining and creating safe, accessible parks and playgrounds for children to play and be active.
  • Recreational programmes: Offering a range of sports and recreational programmes for children of all ages and abilities.
  • Community events: Organising community events such as fun runs, sports days, and fitness challenges that encourage physical activity and community engagement.
  • Safe environments: Ensuring that neighbourhoods are safe for children to play outside and walk or cycle to school.
  • Parental involvement: Providing resources and support for parents to encourage physical activity at home and in the community.

Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity

Despite the numerous benefits of physical activity, several barriers can prevent children from being active. Understanding and addressing these barriers is essential for promoting a healthy lifestyle. Common barriers include:

Lack of Time

Busy schedules can make it challenging to find time for physical activity. To overcome this:

  • Schedule physical activity: Treat physical activity as an important part of the daily routine, just like meals and homework.
  • Incorporate short bursts: Encourage short bursts of activity throughout the day, such as a quick dance session or a game of tag.
  • Use weekends and holidays: Take advantage of weekends and school holidays to engage in longer, more involved physical activities.

Safety Concerns

Parents may worry about their children’s safety during physical activities. To ensure safety:

  • Choose safe environments: Select safe, well-maintained parks, playgrounds, and sports facilities.
  • Provide supervision: Supervise younger children during physical activities and ensure they use appropriate safety gear.
  • Teach safety rules: Educate children about safety rules for different activities, such as wearing helmets while cycling and using equipment properly.

Lack of Access

Limited access to facilities and programmes can hinder physical activity. To address this:

  • Utilise community resources: Take advantage of local community centres, parks, and recreational programmes that offer free or low-cost activities.
  • Create a home gym: Use household items to create a simple home gym, with activities like skipping, jumping jacks, and bodyweight exercises.
  • Encourage outdoor play: Utilise outdoor spaces like gardens, neighbourhood parks, and nature trails for physical activity.

Lack of Motivation

Children may lack motivation to engage in physical activity, especially if they find it boring or challenging. To boost motivation:

  • Make it fun: Choose activities that are enjoyable and align with the child’s interests.
  • Set goals and rewards: Set achievable goals and reward children for their efforts and accomplishments.
  • Encourage variety: Introduce a variety of activities to keep things interesting and prevent boredom.

Screen Time

Excessive screen time can limit opportunities for physical activity. To reduce screen time:

  • Set limits: Establish clear limits on screen time for TV, computers, and video games.
  • Encourage active breaks: Promote active breaks between periods of screen time, such as a quick walk or stretch.
  • Offer alternatives: Provide appealing alternatives to screen time, such as outdoor play, sports, or creative activities.


Making physical activity a part of a child’s life is essential for their physical, mental, and emotional development. By understanding the benefits of regular exercise and implementing practical strategies, parents, educators, and communities can create an environment that fosters a love for physical activity.

Through role modelling, creating routines, providing opportunities, and making activities fun, we can help children develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Encouraging an active lifestyle from a young age sets the foundation for a healthier, happier future, ensuring that children grow up to be strong, resilient, and well-rounded individuals.

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