Physical activity for children

Staying fit and healthy is important for your child’s normal growth and development.

Being active can help your child to:

  • have a healthy body
  • develop self-confidence
  • improve learning and attention

Children under 5 should have at least 3 hours of physical activity a day. By 5 years of age, this should include at least 1 hour of energetic play a day where they sweat and their breathing is faster than normal.

The activity doesn’t need to be done all at once. It can be built up over the course of the day. Reducing the amount of time your child is sitting or not moving is also important.

All activity counts - walking, running, dancing, hopping, skipping or cycling.

What can I do?

You can:

  • play music and learn action songs together
  • explore the outdoors
  • make time for play with other children
  • walk or cycle to where you're going - even doing part of the journey on foot or by bike will be good for your child
  • try to have areas in your home with no televisions, computers or devices, or avoid these devices for certain times during the day
  • create safe places to play

Outdoor play

When playing outdoors, children have more freedom to move, shout and connect with the world.

Playing outdoors offers something new every day. It has huge benefits for your child.

It can help your child to:

  • learn and develop mentally
  • improve their physical development
  • encourage their curiosity
  • learn how to get on with others

If you don’t have a garden or it’s not safe to go outside near your home, try to make time to visit local parks or playgrounds.

The START website has physical activity ideas.

Page last reviewed: 18 September 2018
Next review due: 18 September 2021