Everyday physical activity for school-age children

Most primary school-age children still need plenty of unstructured activity like running and chasing, and playground games.

Everyday physical activity can also include walking, riding bikes or scooters around your neighbourhood, and playing outside in your backyard or local park. And school-age children are often keen to help with physical household tasks like gardening or washing the car – something that you might be keen to encourage too!

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? School-age children should do at least one hour of moderate to vigorous 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 him:

  • develop fitness and feel good about himself
  • learn to listen and follow instructions and basic tactics
  • improve movement and coordination skills
  • 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 sporting organisations have modified versions of games that are appropriate for children at this age. These include In2CRICKET, 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

You can help your child enjoy sport by giving her plenty of opportunities to practise. Children can also get interested in sport through play. For example, a bit of street or backyard cricket can build skills and confidence.

School-age children might need help to develop physical skills like kicking, hitting and throwing. You can help your child start by getting him to hit, throw or kick different sorts of balls as far as he can. Once he’s stronger and more confident, you can work on his accuracy by getting him to hit a target. And you can help with his coordination by getting him 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 a different sport 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.