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Your preschooler is a dynamo, keen to put all physical abilities to the test. Here are some fun play ideas to keep your preschooler moving – and learning at the same time.
Preschooler and mum playing in the ocean
 

Daily movement for preschoolers: why it’s important

Movement is important for your child’s learning and overall wellbeing.

Daily movement helps her build muscles and practise physical skills. Her self-confidence and self-esteem also grow as she climbs higher, runs faster and jumps further.

Australian guidelines say that preschoolers should be active for at least three hours every day.

This doesn’t mean going at full speed for three hours though. Being active can range from running and jumping to quieter activities such as putting toys away, helping with everyday household tasks and going for a walk.

What to expect: preschoolers and movement

Suddenly your child can jump, skip, hop, climb and swing – sometimes with more enthusiasm than skill!

Your preschooler is a unique individual, with his own interests, skills and ways of learning. What your child can do at this age depends a bit on his past experiences and opportunities. But your preschooler will probably:

  • start to dress independently at 3-4 years, and be able to do it all by himself by five years
  • ride a tricycle by four years and start trying to ride a bike, with training wheels and a helmet
  • be able to jump over small objects from four years
  • be able to use scissors quite well by four years
  • be able to walk up and down stairs confidently from four years
  • swing independently on the swing from four years
  • be able to stand on one foot for a short time by four years
  • be able to hop by five years
  • enjoy being active – climbing, sliding, swinging and dancing
  • learn to tie shoe laces at around five years
  • learn to skip at around five years
  • learn to catch a medium-sized ball from five years
  • throw, use a bat, and kick and bounce a ball by five years
  • be keen to join in organised athletic games with other children.

Your child wants to try out new coordination and movement skills. One of the best things you can do to encourage this is to just make the time to have fun together. Let your child lead the play.

You can also offer lots of opportunities for physical play by taking your child to a playground, or simply playing ball games in the backyard.

Small bumps and falls are common as your child pushes physical skills to the limit. This is a normal part of how children learn and develop.

Play ideas to get your preschooler moving

Here are some play ideas to develop your preschoooler’s movement skills – and have fun together!

  • Give your preschooler some child-friendly sports equipment, such as balls, bats, small beanbags and tunnels to crawl through.
  • Borrow or buy a bike with training wheels – about four years is a good age for this.
  • Make time for outdoor play together – at a park or a playground, in the backyard, on a beach or at a football ground.
  • Listen to songs that your child might like to dance to – this is a great way to practise coordination.
  • Learn the actions to songs together.

Try to limit your preschooler’s screen time. Screens include television, computers, tablets and other electronic games and devices. Children aged 2-5 years should have no more one hour of screen time a day.

It’s also worth thinking about how much time your preschooler spends sitting still in a car seat, for example. This should be no more than one hour at a time.

If your child doesn’t seem interested in interacting with other children or is mostly inactive, it’s a good idea to talk with your child and family health nurse or GP about your child’s development.
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  • Last Updated 25-08-2014
  • Last Reviewed 26-05-2014
  • Australian Government Department of Health (2013). Make your move – sit less. Be active for life! Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines/$File/Brochures_PAG_Families.PDF.

    Australian Government Department of Health (2013). Move and play every day: National physical activity recommendations for children 0-5 Years. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved on June 16, 2014, from http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/9D831D9E6713F92ACA257BF0001F5218/$File/0-5yrACTIVE_Brochure_FA%20SCREEN.pdf.

    Gunner, K.B., Atkinson, P.M., Nichols, J., & Eissa, M.A. (2005). Health promotion strategies to encourage physical activity in infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19, 253-258.

    Pelligrini, A.D., & Smith, P.K. (1998). Physical activity play: The nature and function of a neglected aspect of play. Child Development, 69(3), 577-598.