Physical Activity

Physical Activity

Physical Activity

What is physical activity?

Early years settings have a crucial role to play in encouraging active lifestyles and providing environments that enable participation in positive and rewarding activities that stimulate children to learn new skills and enjoy being active.

Children can be encouraged and supported by practitioners/ parents/ carers and each other to try a range of different physical activities. This will not only encourage children to learn to love being active but also help them achieve their daily physical activity requirements for health and well-being and benefit their wider development too. In addition to the health benefits for children from participation in physical activity there are secondary benefits related to improved learning and educational achievements.

Did you know…

Early movement skills are the foundation for developing physical literacy. 'Physical literacy can be described as the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for maintaining purposeful physical pursuits throughout the life-course.' - Margaret Whitehead, 2013

Among children aged 2-4, only 9% of boys and 10% of girls were achieving at least three hours of physical activity per day. Health Survey for England (2013)

Benefits of being physically active

The benefits of young children being physically active go way beyond just the physical benefits.


Appropriate physical activity can help:

  • develop strong bones, muscles and heart
  • develop good motor skills including balance and coordination
  • enable the body to function well and energise the body
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • enable a child to sleep well


Appropriate physical activity can help:

  • develop important brain structures
  • build self-confidence
  • develop communication skills
  • build attention span, concentration and alertness
  • develop self-control
  • develop good social and emotional skills - how to interact, learning how to take turns and getting on and caring about others
  • develop problem solving and decision making skills
  • enable a child to acquire good habits so that they can continue to be active throughout childhood and beyond

Did you know…

The most critical period for developing sensory-motor skills is from birth to 3 years old.

Physical activity guidelines for 0-5 year olds

Healthy, physically active children are more likely to be academically motivated, alert, and successful. Furthermore, physical competence builds self-esteem at every age.


The Healthy Tots Physical Activity Guide and supporting 'Lets Get Moving' cards have been developed by Leicester-Shire & Rutland Sport and partners to support early years practitioners plan and coordinate appropriate physical activity play opportunities and environments for children under 5.

They will help practitioners meet requirements of various UK curriculums, particularly those relating to physical development within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

The Lets Get Moving cards give practical ideas of what practitioners, parents and carers can do with each age group, from 0-3 months to preschoolers.

The 'Let's Get Moving' leaflet for parents provides top tips and advice on how to encourage 0-5 year olds to be active in the home environment.

If you are looking for support with working towards your Leicestershire Healthy Tots status you will find more information on Becoming a Healthy Tots Setting