Everyday physical activity for school-age children
Most primary school-age children need plenty of unstructured play and activity like running, chasing and playground games.
Everyday physical activity can also include walking to school, riding bikes or scooters around your neighbourhood, and playing outside in your backyard or local park.
These kinds of unstructured, everyday physical activities can be more affordable and easier to fit into busy family life than organised activities and sports. And they all add up to a more active lifestyle for your child.
How much physical activity does your child need? For good health, development and wellbeing, school-age children should do at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity and several hours of light physical activity each day.
Sport for school-age children
Many children are ready for organised sport by the middle years of primary school. Playing organised sports and activities can be good for your child in lots of ways. For example, it can help your child to:
- develop physical fitness, self-esteem and confidence
- improve movement and coordination skills
- learn to listen and follow instructions and basic tactics
- learn to lead, follow and be part of a team
- learn about fair play and being a good sport.
First experiences in organised sports don’t have to be as hard or intense as the adult versions. Most sports have modified versions of games that are appropriate for children at this age. These include Cricket Blast, Aussie Hoops basketball, NetSetGo netball, TryRugby and Auskick.
Modified games have different rules and equipment – for example, a rubber ball instead of a hard cricket ball, a smaller field size or smaller teams. This can all help your child develop skills without getting hurt or losing confidence.
Other options for your child could be dance, martial arts or swimming classes.
Helping your child get started with organised sport
Children can get interested in sport through play. For example, street or backyard cricket can build skills and confidence for organised cricket competition.
You can help your child gain confidence by giving her plenty of opportunities to practise physical skills like kicking, hitting and throwing. For example, you could get your child to hit, throw or kick different sorts of balls as far as she can. Once she’s stronger, you could work on her accuracy by getting her to hit a target. And you could help with her coordination by getting her to catch a bouncy ball.
Children might also need help with learning to cope with the emotions of winning and losing. If your child gets frustrated by not winning, it can help to focus on other aspects of sport, like playing with teammates and meeting new people. This can keep up your child’s interest in sport.
Different children are good at and enjoy different activities. If you can afford it, it might be good for your child to try a variety of sports, both team and individual, and to be involved in more than one sport across a year. Some local sports clubs offer ‘come and try’ sessions, or short skills programs, so your child can have a go at different sports without having to pay a lot of money.
Some children don’t like sports, and that’s OK. You might be able to help your child enjoy sport more. Or you could encourage her to try other hobbies that keep her active – for example, dancing, bike riding, going on family walks, collecting shells, doing land care and exploring outdoor areas.
Balancing screen time and physical activity
Sometimes screen time can mean school-age children sit still for too long without a break. But it doesn’t have to be this way – you can use screen time to get your child moving. For example, you can try things like:
- planning a walk with your child using a digital map
- videoing your child learning a new skill like shooting hoops, and replaying the footage so your child can see himself learning
- choosing video dance games or virtual sports simulators for your child.
And remember – healthy screen time is all about balance. It’s good for your child’s development to do lots of different activities, including physical activity, creative play, social play, reading and screen time.