School-age play: why it’s important for movement and motor skills development
Children need plenty of movement and physical activity every day. That’s because movement is vital for development, health and wellbeing.
Movement strengthens muscles and bones, improves coordination, builds fitness and develops motor skills. Movement and physical activity are also good for children’s confidence, because they give children the chance to try new activities, test abilities and discover what their bodies can do.
Play is one of the best ways to keep your school-age child moving and active.
Australian guidelines say that children aged 5-18 years should do at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. And at least 3 days a week, this should include activities that strengthen muscles and bones.
What to expect: school kids and movement
In general, the more opportunities for physical activity and movement your child has, the more skills your child will develop and the more they’ll be able to do.
At 5-8 years, your child might be able to:
- ride a 2-wheel bike without training wheels
- climb a ladder and swing on monkey bars
- throw, catch and kick balls of different sizes and shapes
- skip and cartwheel
- write their name
- dress independently.
At this age, many children might try taking risks when they play to find out what their bodies can do. So you might see your child climbing trees, swinging on play equipment and jumping down steps.
Play ideas to keep school kids moving
Children enjoy doing activities with their families – for example, kicking balls, playing cricket, throwing frisbees and going on family bike rides or nature walks.
You can also get your child moving with outdoor play activities like treasure hunts or chalk racetracks. Everyday activities like gardening can be fun too.
If it’s not too far, you could walk with your child to or from school. This is a great chance for physical activity. To keep things fun and interesting, you could ask your child about their day or play a game of ‘I spy’.
Your child might want to try new activities like skateboarding and rollerblading. Just make sure they’re wearing the right safety gear. This includes a helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads.
And if your child is interested, you could sign them up to an athletics program that includes activities like jumping, throwing, walking and running activities. About 5 years is a good time to find out whether your child would like this.
Other child-friendly modified sports are Cricket Blast, Ready Steady Go Kids, Aussie Hoops basketball, NetSetGO netball, Come and Try Rugby, and Auskick football.
At this age, children might enjoy organised sports, but it’s still important for your child to have free time for unstructured play. Unstructured play is when your child chooses what and how to play. This could be dancing to some music or playing in the sandpit.
Screen time and physical play
You can use screen time and digital technology to encourage physical activity. For example, you and your child can try things like:
- planning a walk using a digital map
- videoing your child learning a new skill like skipping rope, and replaying the footage so your child can see how they’re learning
- choosing video dance games or virtual sports simulators.
And remember – healthy screen time and digital technology use is all about balance. It’s good for your child’s development to do plenty of different activities, which include physical play, pretend and creative play, social play and reading, as well as digital play.
If your child is very inactive or you have any concerns about your child’s physical development, talk with your child’s teacher or your GP.