Increasing activity levels
In promoting physical activity in the early years, settings need to ensure that all children have the opportunity to take part in:
- a number of bouts of physically active play each day
- more energetic purposeful physical play
- regular sustained bouts of physically active play
These routines are important because they make physical activity an important part of each day. They contribute to the 180 minutes of daily physical activity that is recommended in the Chief Medical Officers report (2011) for all early years children. In addition, by providing more bouts of physically active play together with more energetic activity and sustained bouts where children have to keep moving for up to ten minutes, the setting is making a substantial contribution to reducing the obesity problem and helping children to build their stamina which is so crucial in their development.
Physical activity can be:
- climbing stairs
- tidying up
- walking to the setting
Physically active play usually uses the whole body and are more energetic activities such as:
- running/ chasing games
- lifting boxes and moving them
Purposeful physical play is intentional, where the child is learning:
- hop scotch
- obstacle course with challenges
- action rhymes exaggerating whole body movements
Sedentary behaviour is any time spent awake with little or no movement e.g. sitting watching TV, sitting at a table etc. Children in the early years can spend a large amount of their day being sedentary, i.e. when they are sitting waiting for their meals or lining up for the toilet, or participating in table top activities.
We need to distinguish between unproductive (simply waiting, hanging about, watching television aimlessly or sitting doing nothing) and productive sedentary time (a child may be sitting and fully involved in play (alone or with others) or talking with an adult.
To help towards achieving the recommended levels of physical activity, you can take simple steps to reduce sedentary behaviour where children may be sitting or waiting for long periods and increase bouts of activity throughout the day.
You can undertake a brief audit of occasions when children are sitting for long periods, are waiting to start or when individual children appear to be reluctant to engage or are wandering around aimlessly to identify specific opportunities to change behaviours.
Top Tip - Unproductive sitting or waiting can be replaced by more positive activities such as action rhymes and action stories which use whole body movements.
Children can be encouraged to tidy up their toys and play equipment whenever they have finished playing. Helping their parents to tidy up around the house and garden is a good opportunity to be more active. Tidying up can be seen as a good alternative to sitting for long periods. Working together as a team is always fun. In the same way sweeping up and raking leaves are excellent forms of exercise that young children can engage in and enjoy doing.