Research shows that encouraging free movement and active play can give kids space to develop self-awareness, learn non-verbal ways of communicating and to get to know themselves and their body.
Playing each day strengthens muscles and bones and gives kids the chance to practise physical skills. It’s also good for confidence, as they test their abilities and discover that they can climb higher, run faster and jump further all the time.
Active play experiences that are led by children allow them to discover what their body can do, be creative, and enjoy being active without adults leading them.
Having simple play items available allows your child to build and explore movement skills in a variety of ways. For example, throwing doesn't just have to be with a ball – throwing skills can be explored by using large beach balls, beanbags and pom poms. Collect a range of play items of different sizes, colours and textures for your child to build, hit, shake, throw, kick or dance with.
Kids learn best when their whole bodies and minds are stimulated, and being active does just that. Free movement and active play is the best form of physical activity for babies, infants and pre-schoolers.
Outdoor play offers more chances to move, explore and discover different environments. Finding objects outside that are thin, thick, light, heavy, smooth or different from each other can be a fun way for children to learn through using the environment.
Similarly, moving around on the grass or sand, or simply feeling the breeze, is an opportunity to make the most of outdoor play. The outdoors is full of noises, sights and adventures just waiting to be explored.
Sometimes you will need to join in with children’s play, while at other times you can just enjoy watching your child practise new skills. Watching your child’s active play can increase the fun for both of you – you can learn what your child enjoys doing, and your child can show off what they can do.
You can offer praise, as well as simple feedback that further challenges or improves their skills – for example, prompting your child to ‘throw with the other arm’ or ‘run backwards rather than forwards’.
Here's some of our fun ideas for movement!
- Sports equipment, like balls, bats or throwable beanbags.
- Large cardboard boxes. Your child can climb on top of them, crawl through them and push them around.
- Outdoor play at a park or playground swing sets, in the backyard, front yard, on a beach or at a football ground. Moving around on different surfaces develops strength, balance and coordination.
- Playing on monkey bars, play equipment & climbing frames for upper body strength.
- Listening to music and dancing.
- Rough-and-tumble play. Pre schoolers are the biggest rough-and-tumblers and enjoy wrestling, rolling and climbing all over you, or over their siblings and friends.
- Go for a nature walk. This gets your child moving, and they can also collect leaves, sticks or pebbles for craft or pretend play when you get home.