A Place of Our Own
About the Series Feedback Glossary Search Go Español
Home Topics Activities Resources Episode Guide Active Learning

Dear Elizabeth,
I am looking for the best activities to help get my preschooler excited about exercise. Do you have any ideas?
Cara Green
Bentonville, AK
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • Movement encourages brain development
  • Give your child time, space & opportunity to move
  • Plan movement activities that are fun & playful
Expert Advice
Terry Sweeting, Ph.D.
Terry Sweeting, Ph.D.
Assoc. professor, Kinesiology
Physical Activity
The importance of physical activity in the lives of children is becoming more evident. Early in life, it is critical that we promote physical activity in children so they develop a desire to become physically active for a lifetime.

More children are showing signs of being overweight or obese earlier in life. Regular physical activity as well as an appropriate and healthy diet is key to reducing the current obesity epidemic.

There is also a growing body of research to show that exercise actually stimulates or increases brain development (such as brain cell growth, memory, synaptic connections, cognitive “energy”).

How Much Exercise?
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that “children engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.” I think it is important to note here that activity can be accumulated as if you are adding up minutes throughout the day. So the idea is that children engage in moderate to vigorous movement that happens throughout the day.

How to Encourage Movement
Parents can be wonderful “supporters” or advocates when it comes to valuing movement in their children’s lives! Look around your home and backyard to see how you can create safe areas for children to move freely. Provide time in your day to have parent and child time that is uninterrupted. Play “Follow the Leader” and mirroring games with your children. Get household items and have fun making percussive sounds that you and your kids could march to. Create simple obstacle courses that children can crawl through, climb over, travel along, etc. Think about having little “good morning” and “good night” activities that are actually brain enhancing such as rhythmic movements (moving body parts to the beat, marching and jumping patterns on the way to the bathroom), tracking (following with the eyes the movement or flow of a scarf while lying in bed) and cross-lateral movements such as simple animal walks using your child’s favorite stuffed animal.

Movement and Brain Development
There have been many studies in the area of brain research. We know that a strong lower brain and mid-brain develop primarily through sensory and motor activities in the first few years of life. These are precursors or building blocks to higher brain functioning in later life. It is important for parents with infants to allow sufficient prone, supine and quadrupedal movements.

There are critical, sensitive periods or windows of opportunity in regards to brain development. During ages four to twelve, the brain learns fastest and most efficiently. During this time, having new experiences, time to practice (repetition) and movement stimulation are critical for healthy brain development.

If Your Child is Uncoordinated
Even as children are developing walking and running patterns, it is important for parents to notice any severe or acute patterns, such as persistent toeing in or toeing out stepping patterns. Early intervention and detection is the key as it may be a sign of some neurological disorder. See your doctor.
Child Care Provider Comments
Coley Kyman
Coley Kyman
Father of two
Movement is vital and very important, especially with young kids. My son loves to play with us and his older brother makes a big difference. They play together and act, run, play ball, etc. We encourage him to use his imagination. He sometimes pretends to be a dinosaur and will run around the house being a dinosaur. He’ll also pretend to be a football player and will throw the ball to himself, catch it and then tackle himself!
Jessica Predes
Jessica Predes
Aunt of two
My niece loves to dance and she loves music so that’s something that she and I share together. Any time she hears music and she’s just like, “Come dance with me! Come dance with me!” It has a positive impact on her confidence. She’s a lot more alert and can take direction well. We have little dogs running around. She’ll pick them up and start dancing with them, too!
Tondra Gardner
Tondra Gardner
Licensed child care provider for two years
It is important for children to exercise. When you don’t allow them to get exercise they can develop behavior problems. If they are acting up, what they really may be saying is, “I need to move around and get exercise.” I see this a lot when it is raining. They have more energy than they know what to do with, so they will jump on the couch. Your body was made to move. When kids are moving, it promotes brain activity in the cerebellum, located at the back of the brain, which is responsible for making connections.

Karate and Obstacle Course Featured Activity:
Karate and Obstacle Course
Movement Featured Video:
Topic: Health & Safety
View Index
Learn More
View All Topics
Message Boards
Related Episodes
Get Up and Move!
Exercising For Life
PE Central
The SuperConfitelligent Child: Loving to Learn through Movement and Play by Denise C. Hornbeak
Physical Education for Young Children: Movement Abcs for the Little Ones by Rae Pica
© 2007 Community Television of Southern California. All rights reserved.