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Trying lots of different activities and sports – even playing more than one sport – helps children find out what they like and what they are good at. If children do well at a particular physical activity, they’re more likely to stay interested.
In the elementary school years, your child will enjoy testing out their physical abilities. They’ll build a lot of self-esteem from new physical achievements too. Here are play ideas to encourage them to keep moving.
Everyday physical activity for school-age children
Most elementary school-age children still need plenty of free play activity such as running and chasing and playground games. Active free play can also be more affordable and easier to fit into busy family life than organized activities and sports.
At around five years, children are often keen to help with physically engaging household tasks such as gardening or washing the car – something that you might be keen to encourage, too!
Sport for school-age children
Many children are ready for organized sport by the middle years of primary school.
Playing organized sports and activities can be good for children in lots of ways. For example, it can help them with:
- Learning to listen and follow instructions
- Improving their fundamental movement and coordination skills
- Learning to lead, follow and be part of a team
- Learning to win and lose
Organized sports and activities can also be good for children’s health.
First experiences in organized sport don’t have to be as hard or intense as the adult version. Many sporting organizations have modified versions of games that are appropriate for younger children.
For example, rather than a baseball, children can start playing with something softer, like a tennis ball. This can help your child develop skills without getting hurt or losing confidence.
Helping your child get started with organized sport
You can help your child enjoy sport by giving them plenty of opportunities to practice. Children can also get interested in sport through play. So a bit of street hockey or backyard soccer can go a long way, for example.
School-age children might still need help to develop physical skills like kicking, hitting and throwing. You can get your child hitting, throwing and kicking for distance first, and then work on accuracy. For example, big soft slow balls that can bounce a couple of times before children catch them are a great way to work on catching skills and build confidence.
Children often also need help with learning to cope with the emotions of winning and losing. If your child gets frustrated, it might be a good idea to suggest a change of thinking, or even a change of activity, so that they don’t lose interest in participating in sport.
Children are good at and enjoy participating in different activities. It’s good for your child to try a variety of sports, both team and individual. Try not to focus on one particular sport as skills learned from one sport are often transferable to others.
Daily movement for school kids: why it's important
Children need lots of movement and physical activity every day.
Movement is vital for health and wellbeing. It’s also an important part of how children learn and develop physical, social and thinking skills. And it’s a lot of fun too!
There are adapted versions of sports like baseball, volleyball and tennis, which many kids like. But if your child doesn’t like sport, that’s OK. Physical activity can be skipping, walking, running, swimming – even helping with household chores and gardening.
What to expect: school kids and movement
The more opportunities for physical activity and movement your child has, the more your child will be able to do.
Between the ages of five and eight years, your child will probably:
- Be able to ride a two-wheeler bike
- Like to climb and swim
- Be able to throw and catch a ball
- Start to enjoy organized games and team sports.
At this age your child might want to try new activities such as cycling, skateboarding and rollerblading. Just make sure they are wearing the right safety gear including a helmet, wrist pads and knee pads.
Play ideas to keep kids moving
Children enjoy shared family activities. Walking together to and from school is a great chance for physical activity and talking together.
Kicking a ball around in the local park, or putting on some music and dancing together, are examples of fun active play that you can enjoy with your child.
A healthy family lifestyle includes limits on daily screen time, because children are generally physically inactive during screen time. Children aged 5-18 years should have no more than two hours of screen time a day.
Children who have lots of screen time are more likely to have a range of health and learning problems. Too much screen time and not enough physical activity can negatively affect a child’s academic success, social skills, sleep patterns and weight. See: Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth (ages 5-17 years).