By Raising Children Network
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Preschooler and mum playing in the ocean
Your preschooler is full of energy and 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.

Daily movement for preschoolers: why it’s important

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

Daily movement helps your child build muscles and practise physical skills. Her confidence will grow as she climbs higher, runs faster and jumps further.

Play is one of the main ways that children learn and develop, so everyday play is the best way to get your preschooler moving and keep her active.

Australian guidelines say that preschoolers should be active for at least three hours every day, but this doesn’t mean three hours of play until your child is exhausted. Active play can range from running and jumping to quieter activities like putting toys away, helping with everyday household tasks and going for a walk.

What to expect: preschoolers and movement

Children of this age generally enjoy being active. But every preschooler is unique, and what your child can do depends a bit on his past experiences and opportunities.

At 3-4 years, your preschooler will probably:

  • start to dress independently
  • use scissors quite well
  • ride a tricycle by four years and start trying to ride a bike, with training wheels and a helmet
  • jump over small objects and swing independently on the swing
  • walk up and down stairs without using a hand rail 
  • be more coordinated – for example, kick a ball using her right or left leg
  • be able to stand on one foot (both right and left).

At five years, your preschooler is more coordinated and stronger. You might find your child can:

  • hop well on both his left and right foot
  • learn to skip
  • dress himself without your help
  • learn to tie shoe laces
  • throw, hit a ball with a bat or racquet, and bounce and catch a ball.

At this age, your preschooler might also want to play organised games with simple rules – like chasey or piggy in the middle – with other children.

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 preschooler’s movement skills – and have fun together! You can also let your child lead some of these play activities:

  • Give your preschooler some child-friendly sports equipment, like 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 – this could be at a park or a playground, in the backyard, on a beach or at a football ground.
  • Listen to music that your child might like to dance to. You can also learn or make up actions to the songs together.

Try to limit your preschooler’s screen time. Screens include television, computers, tablets and other electronic games and devices. The latest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics say that children aged 2-5 years should have no more one hour a day of screen time with adults watching or playing with them.

It’s also worth thinking about how much time your preschooler spends sitting still – for example, in a car seat. 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.
  • Last updated or reviewed 11-01-2017