Physical activity is an essential element of overall health and well-being. Regular exercise has many short- and long-term health benefits, from reducing the risk of disease to boosting energy levels to building stronger muscles and bones.
Education on the advantages of exercise and how to incorporate daily movement into our lives is essential to creating a healthy lifestyle.
Incorporating physical activity into early childhood play is a fantastic tool for helping a kid’s development. Whether they are at child care or preschool, spending time on play-based activities and games can pique a child’s interest and allow them to showcase their unique abilities.
The Importance of Physical Play
Kids often have high energy levels they need to expend to feel their best. Activities involving active play let them engage in critical ways for their physical and mental development.
- Build strength, endurance and flexibility
- Establish confidence
- Improve posture
- Develop gross and fine motor skills
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Decrease stress levels
- Enhance social skills
- Develop strong bones
- Boost balance and coordination
- Improve concentration
- Sleep better
On the other hand, not getting enough physical activity can cause several health issues for young kids, including:
- Weight gain or excessive body fat
- High blood pressure
- Bone health problems
- Cardiovascular diseases
Physically active kids tend to have fewer chronic health issues and are less likely to get sick. They have a significantly reduced risk of developing diseases or illnesses such as:
- Heart disease
Kids who get plenty of opportunities to fit fitness into their schedules can reap the benefits throughout their lives. Integrating regular exercise into their daily routine is critical for encouraging healthy practices.
Creating a Safe Environment for Physical Play
Before you begin planning activities for your preschoolers, you will need to create a safe and productive environment. Since children need structured and unstructured play, you can create a zone that can serve both.
Toddlers especially are in an exploratory period where many things pique their interest. They also have a unique way of exploring the world. Many toddlers will follow their curiosity and questions by tossing toys around or testing the limits of their environment and body. Here are some ideas for creating a safe space where toddlers can follow their curiosity.
- Going by their height: When setting up play spaces for toddlers, it is best to cater to their proportions. Bring the fun to their level to avoid tempting them to climb and risk their safety.
- Considering furniture placement: As you set up your play area, consider how you place furniture and the overall layout. Use toy organizers and other larger furniture items to divide the room into smaller play areas. You can also readjust things to create large temporary spaces for group activities.
- Organizing toys conveniently: You can help encourage exploration and independence in your preschoolers by organizing play items where they can easily access them. Giving children easy access to toys can help them explore what they like and dislike to play with independently without asking for help.
By creating an environment with a toddler’s goals and actions in mind, you can allow them to explore and play in safe ways and add to their mental, physical and social development.
Indoor and Outdoor Physical Activities for Toddlers
At ages 1 to 3, kids are often beginning to become more active, doing things like learning to walk and throw. During these years, they also start developing their motor skills.
For toddlers, physical activity should encourage them to use their gross motor skills. The large muscle groups in their arms and legs allow them to do things such as:
Learning these movements takes plenty of practice for toddlers, making physical games and activities even more valuable to their development. Check out these fun play ideas for getting your toddlers more active.
1. Row, Row, Row Your Boat
A fun, equipment-free activity for a toddler’s physical development is “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” This game teaches them about socialization and playing together. All they have to do is sit on the floor while facing each other and pressing their feet into their partner’s. As they hold hands, they lean back and forth while singing along to the song.
2. Musical Hide-and-Seek
Another engaging and effortless game is using your phone to play music and hiding it somewhere within their play space. The kids can then go on a hunt to find where the music is coming from. Musical hide-and-seek is perfect for getting toddlers moving and developing their problem-solving skills.
3. Build a Tower
For this activity, you’ll need only a supply of blocks or other stackable objects such as kitchen containers with lids.
Using your items of choice, build a tower with your kids. You can take turns adding the building blocks to the tower. Allow them to see how high they can stack their items, and you can keep a count of each block added to the tower. The kids can knock it down for extra fun at the end.
4. Toss Balls in a Basket
For this game, choose soft balls that are small enough for toddlers to hold comfortably but large enough that they cannot put them in their mouths.
Have the kids practice making baskets into a laundry bin or sand bucket. As they get the hang of it, you can gradually move the basket farther away to challenge their new skills.
5. Imitate Animals
Imitating animals is another exciting way to get toddlers moving. Encourage them to choose their favorite animals and embody how they act and move.
They can roll around or walk on all fours. Have them use their entire body and practice being all kinds of creatures. The more active they are during this game, the better.
6. Traffic Safety
Begin by cutting three circles from colored paper –– one red, one yellow and one green. Label the red circle “Stop,” the yellow circle “Slow” and the green circle “Go.”
Pick one child to be the traffic light. They will take turns holding up each color. The other children will move according to the chosen color. You can also take advantage of this active play idea to teach toddlers about traffic safety.
You can play follow-the-leader with toddlers. Have them pay close attention and copy your designated moves. Consider having them do activities such as:
- Touching their toes
- Jumping up and down
- Stomping in a circle
- Crawling on all fours
Choose simple actions to engage gross motor skills.
8. Hit the Balloon
For this activity, blow up a couple of balloons and encourage the kids to keep them aloft by tapping them with their hands before the balloons hit the ground.
For more skilled kids, you can add a barrier like a pillow between them and have the kids try to volley the balloon back and forth.
Chasing the balloons can be great exercise and a lot of fun for toddlers.
Indoor and Outdoor Physical Activities for Preschoolers
Preschoolers ages 3 through 5 can enjoy activities that require more coordination, such as:
- Riding a tricycle
- Playing tag
Check out these indoor and outdoor games for encouraging fitness and developmental activities for preschoolers.
1. Musical Chairs
Place chairs either in a row or in a circle facing outward. Play fun, upbeat music and have the kids circle around the chairs. When you stop the music, the kids will sit in the seat closest to where they are.
You can adapt this game to be a no-lose version where there is always a seat for every participant. To keep kids active, change the movement with each new tune and have them do things such as:
- Bunny hop
2. Red Light, Green Light
For this activity, have the preschoolers line up side by side, facing either a teacher or another player. The teacher stands on the other side of the room or space, facing the players.
When the teacher calls, “Green light,” the players run toward the teacher until the teacher yells, “Red light!” Then, the players must freeze in place. The game continues until the players reach the teacher.
You can also include handheld signs representing a green light and a red light for the teacher or child to hold up during the game.
3. Freeze Dance
Like musical chairs, this game requires an adult to play music for the kids. Encourage the kids to dance while the music is playing and have them freeze in place as soon as you pause it.
The kids will enjoy the spontaneity of the game and can work on their self-regulation skills.
A fun and creative physical activity for preschoolers is makeshift bowling. You can use items such as:
- Water bottles
- Soda cans
- Paper towel rolls
Arrange them into a triangle as if they were bowling pins. Have the kids use a soft foam ball and practice rolling it underhand towards the pins. To practice their math skills, they can count how many pins they successfully knocked down after each turn.
While outdoors, take some chalk to a sidewalk or blacktop to draw blocks for your game of hopscotch. This game will get kids hopping, challenging their balance and practicing counting. You can also adapt this hopscotch game to be an indoor activity by using tape to set up your squares.
6. Jump Over the River
To play this game, create a river using two chalk or tape lines. You can create sections of varying widths.
Instruct the children to leap over the smallest portion of the river and slowly work up to the longest jump to challenge their balance and skills.
7. Field Day
The ultimate activity for preschoolers isn’t only one game — it’s a jam-packed day of different physical activities for kids! Plan a field day with multiple activity stations full of movement and fun. This preschooler activity idea is adaptable for indoor or outdoor play and can be as complex or simple as you want to make it.
Have a timer on hand to keep the fun moving and see that the participants get a turn at each station. Check out these ideas for activity stations and choose several different physical activities kids will love.
- Cup stacking: Gather some empty plastic cups for this fun activity that challenges kids’ hand-eye coordination. Set a timer and see how fast kids can stack cups in a set structure. Choose a cup structure appropriate to the children’s skill level, like a five-cup-high pyramid tower.
- Obstacle course: You can have children jump through hula hoops on the ground, crawl through a tunnel of boxes and hop between shoes — the options for your obstacle course stations are nearly endless!
- Cleanup race: The cleanup race makes the perfect final activity station for your field day. Plus, it gives you a breather after a busy day of fun. Have plastic bins ready and give everyone a time limit for picking up the field day supplies.
Get Active With Playworld
Getting outside is one of the best ways to encourage kids to be more active and engage with the world around them! Outdoor activities allow them to explore and move with more intensity than indoors. Spending time at a playground can be highly beneficial to their development and relationship with physical activity.
Playgrounds provide tremendous opportunities for kids of all ages, from toddlers to school-aged children. They allow kids to have fun while expending their excess energy and developing their gross and fine motor skills. Between engaging with friends and climbing equipment, there are few activities more exciting than a trip to a playground.
Playworld has been providing kids with playgrounds for decades. We know physical activity play is essential in early childhood education and development, and we want to help the kids in your housing development and neighborhood have fun and stay active.
With our equipment, you can trust that kids are getting exciting, quality physical activity while they’re having a blast. Contact Playworld to get the playground your kids want and need.