School-age play: why it’s important for movement and motor skills development
Children need lots of movement and physical activity every day. That’s because movement is vital for development, health and wellbeing.
Moving strengthens muscles and bones, improves coordination, builds fitness and develops motor skills. Movement and physical activity are also good for children’s confidence, as they 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 three 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 she’ll be able to do.
At 5-8 years, your child might be able to:
- ride a two-wheeler 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 his name
- dress independently.
At this age, many children might try taking some risks when they play to find out what their bodies can do. So don’t be surprised if you see your child climbing trees, swinging on play equipment and jumping down steps.
Play ideas to keep kids moving
Children enjoy doing activities with their families – for example, kicking balls, playing cricket or throwing frisbees with you and their siblings.
If it’s not too far, you could also try simple things like walking with your child to or from school. This is a great chance for physical activity. To keep things interesting, you could ask your child about her day or play a game of ‘I spy’.
Your child might want to try new activities like skateboarding and rollerblading. Just make sure he’s wearing the right safety gear. This includes a helmet, wrist pads and knee pads.
And if your child is interested, you could sign her up to an athletics program that includes activities like jumping, throwing, walking and running activities. About five 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 find organised sports lots of fun, 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
Sometimes screen time can mean 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 skipping rope, and replaying the footage so your child can see himself learning
- choosing video dance games or virtual sports simulators.
And remember – healthy screen time is all about balance. It’s good for your child’s development to do lots 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.