What is active play?
Active play is physical activity with regular bursts of a moderate to vigorous pace, such as crawling, jumping, or running. Active play should raise children’s heart rate and make them ‘huff and puff’. Active play can occur:
• Indoors or outdoors
• Alone or with friends and family
• In structured settings, such as swimming lessons or sport
• In unstructured settings, such as backyards or parks perhaps on a climbing frame from Climbing Fames Australia.
A time for active play, everyday!
It is crucial for all children to be active for at least 60 minutes everyday
This time can be built up throughout the day, and includes finding time for outdoor play. Outdoor active play gives children more freedom to:
• Use large and small muscle groups
• Learn how their body moves
• Explore nature and make noise
• Move in a range of ways, directions, and paces
• Practice skills, such as skipping, hopping, or climbing.
As children grow, the time and range of chances to be active should increase. This may include slowly increasing walking and/or running distances, and building more play skills such as catching, dancing, or swimming.
The unseen greats of active play
An important part of growth is giving children the chance to be active whenever possible. Active play therefore does not always have to be organised and have set time limits, equipment, or instructions. Allowing children to ‘make up’ their own play lets them try new things, learn from their mistakes, and above all enjoy being active all whilst moving at their own pace. Active play does not just fill children’s time. It is through play that children of all ages form lifelong skills, such as:
• Decision making and problem solving skills
• Self-belief and self-confidence
• Creativity and imagination
• Skills in dealing with change and the mindset to ‘keep going’.
Just as important is children’s ability to express feelings, laugh, have fun, and mix with other people. This helps to develop:
• Communication and social skills
• A sense of belonging
• An understanding of social rules
• A sense of ‘give and take’
• Team work skills
• An understanding of children, such as those with disabilities or from different cultures.
Children are naturally curious and eager to have fun. Children need to be given the chance to ‘have a go’ and practise new skills as often as possible. This includes giving helpful hints and praise, especially when they are trying something new. Playing together can also make sure skills continue to improve and children enjoy being active.
Children are eager to try and learn new things. Play time with other children and building social skills are important to this age group.
• Chances to explore and create games
• Try junior sports and activities with tactics and rules
• Practice and repetition
• Play time with others
• New play experiences that may test limits.
Active play ideas
• Simple play items – boxes, tyres, cushions, ropes, balls
• Junior sport, such as Kanga Cricket, Netta Netball
• Catching, throwing, hitting and running games with stop-start patterns
• New skills – skipping ropes, trampolines, throwing at targets, swimming
• Dancing, making up a concert
• Explore parks, rocks, bridges
• Walking or riding to and from local places, such as school
• Gardening or vacuuming
• Making an obstacle course or treasure hunt.
Older children can enjoy being in control of their own choices and like having more responsibility.
• Try a range of sports and activities (team and individual)
• Regular family play time – going to the park or for bike rides
• Parental support and role modelling
• Outdoor play
• Chances for imaginative, ‘made up’ play.
Active play ideas
• Junior sport
• Building a cubby house or fort
• Helping with household tasks
• Riding bikes or skate boards
• Free backyard play
• New outdoor spaces – new parks, camping, farms, rivers
• Attending youth groups, such as the YMCA or Scouts
• Walking or riding to and from local places
• Active school holiday activities.