How to get children involved in physical activity

Helping children find activities that they like is one of the keys to keeping them active.

Dancing, skipping, running, playing with a ball or flying a kite – it doesn’t matter what the activity is as long as they like it. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about keeping active, building confidence and having fun.

Physical activity: variety and fun

You can help your child explore lots of different activities to find something he enjoys.

For example, children who like balancing might enjoy climbing, cycling, playgrounds, dance or gymnastics. Others who like hand-eye coordination tasks might enjoy ball games in the park, ten-pin bowling, Frisbee or sports like cricket or tennis.

Plenty of variety in your child’s mix of sports, games and activities will also keep her excited about moving. And when your child tries out different activities, she can pick up new skills, stay interested and challenged, and get enough physical activity in her day.

It’s good for your child’s health and development to do physical activity that varies in intensity, including moderate and vigorous activity. Even short bursts of activity throughout the day add up. You can find out more in our article on how much physical activity children need – and why.

Tips for encouraging active children

You can help your child be active by being a good role model and sending positive messages about being physically active.

Ways to do this include:

  • being active yourself – your child will be more likely to follow your lead
  • giving your child praise and encouragement if an activity is proving a bit hard for him
  • trying to make some time to have fun playing actively with your child – it’s great to find something you both enjoy doing
  • supporting but not coaching your child when he’s learning something new – just try saying ’I enjoy watching you play’
  • going along to watch and support your child when he tries an organised sport or group lesson for the first time.

You can also plan and organise activities that encourage physical activity for your child. These might include:

  • camping, bushwalking and outdoor games for the whole family
  • daily chores around the house like gardening, washing the car and picking up toys or games at the end of the day
  • an activities box at home and in the car with balls, bats, kites, beach buckets and spades so that you’re always prepared
  • gifts that encourage activity, like kites, skipping ropes, balls, sporting equipment or bikes and scooters.
If you want your child to be more active, it’s a good idea to limit screen time. Keep an eye on the amount of time your child spends watching TV or using computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices with screens.

Walking: how to get more physical activity into the day

One of the easiest ways to incorporate activity into your child’s routine is to take regular walks together.

You can walk to school, child care or kinder. Look for parks along the way. ‘Active transport’ like walking, cycling or using a scooter also encourages your child to learn how to get around safely in your neighbourhood. You can start when your child is a baby with outings in a sling, carrier or pram.

Walking to school most days has many benefits for you, your child and your community. These benefits include:

  • keeping you and your child feeling happy and well
  • giving your child opportunities to learn and practise road rules and road safety
  • making your child aware of her neighbourhood
  • giving you and your child the chance to talk and spend time together
  • meeting neighbours along the route, and chatting with other parents at the school gate
  • helping your child feel good about where she lives.

You can increase the range of your walks by following nature trails in parks and by taking trips to interesting locations. Parking your car or getting off the bus a little distance from the playground or park can also add more activity to the day.