Why is physical activity important in early childhood services for infants and young children?
Physical activity is vital for a child’s development and lays the foundation for a healthy and active life. Early childhood services are ideally placed to foster the development of good physical activity habits early in life and to encourage families to engage in regular physical activity.
Early childhood services should offer a wide choice of play-based, physically active learning experiences that link to children’s interests, abilities, identity and prior knowledge. Physical activity in childcare needs to be made up of both structured (i.e. intentionally taught) physical activity and unstructured, spontaneous activity. In addition, as active role models, educators can encourage children to participate in physical activity.
The benefits of being active for young children include:
- promoting healthy growth and development
- helping to achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- building strong bones and muscles
- improving cardiovascular fitness
- improving balance, coordination and strength
- maintaining and developing flexibility
- improving posture
- assisting with the development of gross motor and fine motor skills
- providing the opportunity to develop fundamental movement skills
- helping to establish connections between different parts of the brain
- improving concentration and thinking skills
- improving confidence and self-esteem
- relieving stress and promoting relaxation
- providing opportunities to develop social skills and make friends
- improving sleep.