YMCA Childcare Blog

Physical Activity for Children - How Much is Enough?

Play gives your child the chance to explore the natural environment and have adventures. They can play favourite games, test their physical limits, express themselves and build self-confidence. Outside play can also mean more mess – and more mess often means more fun! When your child is outside, they probably have more space and freedom for big movements, like running, jumping, kicking and throwing. Physical activities like these are good for their health, fitness and physical development. It’s natural to worry that your child could hurt themselves when playing outside. Sometimes your child might be worried about trying something new. This is all a normal part of outdoor play, and these worries shouldn’t keep your child from playing outside. It’s OK for your child to push the play boundaries outside, where they have room to run faster, climb higher and jump further. It might mean some tears, a scrape or a fall, but ‘risky play’ helps your child learn from mistakes and bounce back. Children who have been kept away from these experiences are more likely to get seriously hurt when they have outdoor experiences.

Below is a guide from Active Health Kids Australia with recommendations for active play for children from birth to 17 years old.

Infants (Birth to 1 year)
Physical activity should be encouraged from birth, especially supervised floor-based play.

Children (0-5 years)
Should not be sedentary, restrained or kept inactive for more than 1 hour at a time, with the exception of sleeping. Children (less than 2 years) should not take part in any screen time activities.

Children (2-5 years)
Should be limited to less than one hour per day of screen time.

Toddlers (1-3 years) & Pre-Schoolers (3-5 years)
Toddlers and pre-schoolers should accumulate at least 3 hours of physical activity (light, moderate or vigorous) every day.

Children (5-12 years) & Young People (13-17 years)
Children and young people should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day. A variety of aerobic activities should be undertaken, including some physical activities that are vigorous in intensity. Physical activities that strengthen muscles and bones should be included on at least three days per week. For additional health benefits, children and young people should engage in more physical activity (up to several hours) every day.

Children (5-12 years) and young people (13-17 years)
Should minimise the time spent being sedentary every day and break up long periods of sitting as much as possible.

Children (5-12 years) and young people (13-17 years)
Should limit their screen time to no more than 2 hours per day.

(Active Healthy Kids Australia (2014). Is Sport Enough? The 2014 Active Healthy Kids Australia Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Young People)

Written by Alison Furze - Coordinator YMCA Dutton Park OSHC