Movement and physical activity for preschoolers

Encourage preschool-aged children to play actively every day. Active play helps children to grow and develop, improves focus, and boosts confidence and self-esteem. It can also help protect against diseases in later life.

For this age group, at least three hours per day of active play spread out over the day is recommended.

At this age your child is off and running. They should be able to do a range of activities including climbing on play equipment, balancing on one leg and jumping with two feet together.

Pedalling on a tricycle, throwing and catching a ball, and balancing along a plank should be easy for your child. Children this age like to act out imaginary storylines and play make-believe.

They’re starting to draw people and cut with child-safe scissors. You may find they want to dress themselves or help out around the house.

Active play ensures children get the chance to improve movement skills. Playing outside rather than inside offers more opportunities for the body to move. All opportunities to walk, run, climb, push, pull, spin and dance creatively count.

Creative play includes making up games or activities and imitating others. To encourage creative active play provide items such as hula-hoops, cardboard boxes, cushions, balls and buckets. Join in games with your children often.

As a family try to:

  • Plan something physical and active together as a family on a weekly basis. Find a park or play area that you can walk or ride to in your local area.
  • Invite other children to play outdoors with your child.
  • If time and money permit, see if there are any activity classes for preschoolers in your area such as swimming, gymnastics, dance or ball play. Involve your child in active hobbies such as gymnastics, dance, swimming or junior sports.
  • Remember to be an active role model for your child in your own daily life.

For more information and detail on how children learn through playing see Raising Children Network.