kids playing soccer

Physical Activity

Establishing physical activity habits in young children is critical to building a foundation for an active lifestyle in the adolescent and adult years. While physical activity promotes healthy weight, physical activity also stimulates the brain and can improve brain function and academic performance, as well as help children sleep better and handle physical and emotional challenges. It is important to consider how much activity children get both in the school and the home environment to ensure they get the right amount. Teachers and parents need to be positive role models and participate with their children. Be sure to include all children regardless of age, ability, size or weight status. Make physical activity a positive experience and never use it as punishment or withhold it from a child for disciplinary reasons. It’s not only a good idea -- in most states, it’s the law.

 

 cartoon kids doing outdoor activities

Physical Literacy

Physical literacy is having the “motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.” While not every child has access to equipment, facilities, coaches, parks or sports, every child should have the opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence necessary to choose an active lifestyle. Studies show that skilled preschoolers become active adolescents. While just moving and being physically active is important, physical literacy is a broader term that includes teaching children fundamental skills, such as balancing, skipping or hopping on one foot, that provide the building blocks for basic movement. Physical literacy also includes helping children develop hand-eye-coordination such as for hitting a baseball, speed changes such as moving fast and slow, or connecting the brain to the body such as touching the right hand to the left knee. Finally, physical literacy means the child is confident and enthusiastic to gain independence to become healthy, active adolescents and adults.

kid doing pushups

Physical Fitness

A child can be given lots of playtime (physical activity) and even possess the skills to choose a healthy lifestyle (physical literacy), but physical fitness is different from both of these. Physical fitness measures how fit is a child to compete or keep up with his playmates. Physical fitness components include cardiovascular endurance, often called cardio, muscle and bone strength, muscular endurance and flexibility. While fitness is not generally measured in young children, activities should be included that promote heart, muscle and bone strength such as aerobic or cardio activities like running and swimming and weight-bearing activities like jumping and hopscotch.

kid on computer

Sedentary Behavior & Screen Time

Being sedentary is different than “not being active.” Children can go outside and participate in active play during child care designated play time, but if they are sedentary the rest of the day at school or at home, they can have a whole new set of health problems. Nevada law requires that children receive both moderate-vigorous physical activity periods as well as limited sedentary time. Activities defined as sedentary are those that "do not significantly use arms or legs or provide significant exercise, including, without limitation, sitting, standing, reading, playing a board game, riding in a wagon or drawing.” While activities such as watching TV, playing video games or sitting at a computer or smart phone are commonly understood, it can also include activities like reading, playing cards, driving in a car or bus or sitting at a desk during school or work time. Preschoolers should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time except when sleeping and screen time should be limited.

kids using hula hoops

Physical Activities & Games

Getting kids to “work out” can be challenging. But there’s no need to stick to run-of-the-mill, boring exercises like jumping jacks, push-ups and sprints. We put together a list of some fun and creative fitness activities for kids that will get them moving in no time at all.

kids dancing

Music & Dance

Preschoolers should engage in 60 minutes of structured play and 60 minutes of outdoor play. Finding structured activities that can be done indoors and in small spaces can be challenging. Music and dance may just be the optimal choice! Extension has created some music and dance opportunities that can be downloaded and used as part of a curriculum, as a teacher-led, structured activity or as an activity to break up sedentary time. The music is multi-genre, has healthy messaging related to physical activity and healthy eating, incorporates math, science, music and creativity and other Pre-K standards and teaches children fundamental and perceptual motor skills that help them become active adolescents. Music and dance is fun, it doesn’t exclude children who are less skilled, it can be done at school or home, with friends or family and it promotes brain development and social interaction. The dances below can be taught using multiple platforms including audio mp3 with and without instructional voiceover, a dance instructional video, written lyrics and dance instructions or music videos for practice and family shared entertainment.

 mom hiking

Physical Activities for Parents

Strategies for parents to promote physical activity for children.

Learn more about the program contributor(s)

Anne Lindsay
Program Leader & Contact
Susan Taylor
Program Contact

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Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
All 4 Kids Chant
Lyrics to All 4 Kids Chant.
Lindsay, A. 2009, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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Alphabet Stretch
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020
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Animal Moves
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020
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Balancing Act
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020-3048
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Balloon Fun
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020-3047
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Cardio Endurance | Heart Smart
Cardio- Respiratory, or “Cardio” Endurance is an important element to children’s physical fitness.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Children's Books About Energy Balance & Physical Activity
All books listed have been peer-reviewed by academic institutions.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
A group of kids jumping on one foot.
Count my Moves
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020-3046
A girl crossing her feet.
Crossing my Feet
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020-3045
A kid laying on the floor with their body being traced on a piece of paper.
Dancing Partner
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020-3044
Energy Balance
Energy balance is being mindful of what we eat, drink, and how much physical activity we are getting. Focusing on energy balance can lead to a healthy lifestyle.
Lindsay, A. 2017, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno
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Engagement Strategies That Promote Physical Activity
Using positive engagement strategies in fun, playful social settings are key to promoting physical activity.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Flexibility | Reach for the Stars!
Flexibility is an important part of a child’s fitness and includes movements like bending, twisting and stretching.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Follow the Leader
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020-3043
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Food Relay
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020-3042
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Fundamental Movement Skills | Active Kids Are Active Adolescents
For many children sports and physical activity aren’t natural, aren’t easy and it may not be fun!
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Get Moving!
It can be a challenge to schedule an exercise plan into your busy life. Try stepping up your current routine without adding more commitments to your schedule and get moving!
Lindsay, A. 2009, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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Get Regular
Starting a fitness program is only half the battle. Maintaining a physically active lifestyle is the ultimate challenge. As you progress through the steps to building an active lifestyle, you reach the final step, Get Regular!
Lindsay, A. 2009, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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Get Up, Get Out!
Get Up, Get Out isn’t about exercise or hard workouts at the gym, it is leisure and fun that will help lay the foundation for becoming more active.
Lindsay, A. 2009, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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Healthy Kids Resource Center - Policies, Procedures & Partners
Find links to Federal and State policies and regulations
Lindsay, A. and Taylor, S. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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Healthy Tips for Families: Lifelong Healthy Habits Start at Home.
Today’s children have different options for food and play than children had in the past. Sadly, many food choices contain more calories and fewer nutrients than a child needs to grow healthy. Try these 10 tips to help your family!
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Heart Smart
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020-3041
I've Got Moves Lyrics
Lyrics to I've Got Moves Song
Lindsay, A., Mullis, A., and Prestridge, J. 2018, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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Indoor Obstacle Course
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020-3039
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Move Your Way
Get more active, find activities that will help you reach the minimum requirements to get the benefits of a healthy life.
Lindsay, A. 2011, Department of Health and Human Services
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Muscle and Bone Strength | Muscles in Motion
Did you know that people who are more physically active generally use more energy even at rest than those who are not as physically active?
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Music & Dance | Healthy Kids Physical Toolkit
Music and dance is fun, it doesn’t exclude children who are less skilled, it can be done at school or home, with friends or family and it promotes brain development and social interaction.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Musical Shapes
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, CM-2020-3038
Obstacle Course
Obstacle Course
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
Pack it Up Lyrics
Lyrics to Pack it Up song.
French, D., Eliaers, C., and Lindsay, A. 2009, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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Perceptual Motor Development | Connecting the Brain & the Body
Perceptual motor development connects a child’s perceptual or sensory skills (his brain) to his motor skills (his body) so they can perform a variety of movements and confidently interact with their environment.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Physical Activities To Do With Your Children
Children have different needs at each age and stage of their development. Each child is also unique. If it's been a while since you've had children in the house, check out this list for activities that can help children learn, have fun, experience success, and feel good about themselves.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Physical Activity Promotes Brain Development
Children who are more physically active perform better academically and have better memory and attention.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Rainbow Ribbons
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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Rainbow Scarves
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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Screen Time | Make Time to Unplug
Increased time in front of a screen means less time being physically active, contributing to higher weight and BMI, increased caloric intake & unhealthy food choices.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Sedentary Behavior | Don't Just Sit, and Sit, and Sit!
Being sedentary can result in more sitting and less time spent being physically active which can lead to obesity and greater risk for having diabetes and other chronic health problems as an adult.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Simon Says
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
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Stretchy Limbo
A fun game to help encourage physical activity among children.
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Lyrics to Supposed to Polka.
Lindsay, A., Mullis, A., and Prestridge, J. 2018, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
The Boogie Oogie Slide
Lyrics to the Boogie Oogie Slide.
Lindsay, A., and Sluyter, C. 2009, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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The Elements of Fitness | Fit Kids Are Healthy Kids
Children should engage in indoor and outdoor active play in their pre-school and at home.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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A fun game to encourage physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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Using a Pedometer
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Lindsay, A. 2009, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
Ven Conmigo Song
Lyrics to Ven Conmigo song.
Sluyter, C. 2009, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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What Is Physical Literacy? | Early Start, Active for Life
A young child who is physically literate is one who has the motivation confidence, knowledge, skills, and fitness necessary to enjoy a physically active lifestyle
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
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Whoa and Go: Yarn Race
A fun game that encourages physical activity among children.
Lindsay, A. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno
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Yebo Let's Go Song
Lyrics to Yebo Let's Go song.
Mullis, A., Lindsay, A., Prestridge, J. 2018, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno