Active recreation

Active recreation makes physical activity fun. Schools can provide a range of opportunities for students to undertake unstructured, leisure-based physical activity.

What makes active recreation

Active recreation includes active play and recreation before, during and after school (inclusive of recess and lunch), outdoor learning, incursions, excursions and school camps.

Unstructured, leisure-based physical activity is vital to children and young people's daily activity levels. Providing access to a range of developmentally appropriate, fun and non-competitive active recreation options allows all children and young people to find activities they enjoy.

Schools can support active recreation by:

  • encouraging outdoor play and recreation to help students develop fundamental movement skills and physical strength whilst being adventurous and having fun
  • using outdoor learning to increase physical activity by connecting classroom-based learning with field-based experiences
  • offering and promoting active recreation options to students who are disinterested in traditional organised school sports
  • appropriate provision of free time and unstructured lunch and recess breaks.

Strategies and approaches

These strategies and resources provide suggestions for how schools can support active recreation.

Policy and leadership


  • Support active recreation in your school
  • Have sufficient recess and lunch breaks to support active play and recreation
  • Advocate for physically challenging active play by allowing activities such as climbing, jumping/landing, running, hanging
  • Ensure that students are outdoors during recess and lunchtime with the exception of extreme or inclement weather (opportunities for physical activity must be provided if indoors)
  • Plan and endorsing an age-appropriate outdoor education and school camp program for all year levels
  • Provide age-appropriate spaces including well-maintained and safe equipment for play and recreation
  • Provide students with access to school grounds and playground equipment before and after school for active recreation during supervised hours
  • Provide students with a range of equipment and resources to encourage active recreation during recess, lunch, before and after school
  • Consider a school uniform policy that allows students to wear a uniform which supports physical activity
  • Appoint an out-of-school-hours care provider that values and prioritises active play and recreation.


Teaching and learning


  • Encourage students to engage in active recreation
  • Offer outdoor education experiences to develop a love of being active in the outdoors
  • Conduct regular 'house sporting days' that are less focused on competition, and more focused on social interactions and active play opportunities
  • Provide teachers with opportunities to increase their knowledge regarding how to promote students' active recreation
  • Incorporate active play and recreation into learning activities
  • Develop peer programs whereby older students facilitate recess and lunchtime activities for younger students.


  • Learning through play, from The Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) provides some classroom examples
  • The importance of play-based learning paper from the Western Australian Department of Education and Training provides examples of how to support student's learning through play
  • Play Australia provides a range of resources and professional development opportunities to promote play every day, including the Loose Parts Play toolkit.



  • Consider local providers for excursions (particularly those which include active aspects to their learning) where students are able to walk or take public transport to the location
  • Utilise local outdoor education and/or before and after school providers.


  • Parks Victoria offer a range of outdoor and nature-based resources and excursions.



  • Re-purposing school grounds that are currently unusable, to increase space for students to engage in active play and recreation
  • Reviewing the school grounds to determine if there are ways to increase opportunities for students of all ages and genders to engage in active play and recreation in the natural environment. Even low-cost improvements to the school grounds, such as line markings, can make a big difference. It is important to involve the students in this process, so their views and needs are considered
  • When designing new schools or upgrading existing spaces, place lockers and homerooms away from the central area of the school to encourage secondary school students to walk across campus throughout the day
  • Providing sufficient undercover and shaded areas to encourage active play in in all weather conditions.


  • This article in The Conversation discusses why the physical environment is important to help facilitate physical activity during the transition to secondary school
  • This brochure from the University of Western Australia summarises playground characteristics most enjoyed by young children
  • Nature Play is a webpage with information about the benefits of nature play including a link to the Play Space Guide
  • These School-News Australia articles describe the importance of and the process in designing a nature play space in schools
  • This Teacher Magazine article provides an overview of challenging and enjoyable playground spaces for children.