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Let's get active! A parent's guide to physical activity for kids



Physical activity has many benefits for kids. Being active is important to help kids grow and develop. Did you know? Physical activity can also help children:

  • Lower the risk of childhood overweight and obesity
  • Promote fitness and bone health
  • Promote heart health and lower the risk for heart disease
  • Increase self esteem and social skills and
  • Help improve academic performance in school

Even though increasing physical activity can seem like a challenge, the benefits are worth it! Read on to learn more about physical activity and get tips on how to encourage your kids to get active.

How much physical activity do kids need?

Children and youth need a total of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. The 60 minutes doesn’t need to be done all at once to see health benefits. Any activity done for 10 minutes or more can count towards the total of 60 minutes per day.

  • Moderate activities make you sweat a little and breathe harder.
  • Vigorous activities make you sweat a lot and be out of breath.

Three days a week should include activities that strengthen muscles and bones like sit ups, jumping and swinging on playground swings and bars. Vigorous activities such as running, swimming and biking should also be included at least 3 days per week. 

How can I get my kids more active?

Here are some budget-friendly ideas to get the kids up and moving after school:

Play outside!

Encourage your kids to play outside before homework time and dinner. Any activity is better than no activity. The longer the kids are active the better! Encourage them to play tag, hide and go seek, jump in the leaves or build a castle in a sandbox. Make a trip to the store for balls, hockey sticks, hula hoops, side walk chalk and badminton rackets. Items don’t need to be expensive. You would be surprised what you can find at your local dollar store! Consider getting your kids involved and bring them along to the store so they can pick what they would enjoy doing.

Walk, run or skip!

Go for a walk after dinner or head to the neighbourhood park before starting bedtime routines. This is also a good time for older kids and teens to be active before working on homework. A little running around can help them think clearer and be more efficient when doing their homework.

Skip the ride home from school.

Let your teen or older child walk or bike to or from school instead of giving them a ride. Older kids can walk with friends if you are concerned about their safety. Start a walking school bus! Take turns with other parents in the neighbourhood to walk kids to and from school. With exercise for the kids and parents and a few extra minutes for you before the kids get home, everyone wins!

Join an after school program that includes regular physical activity.

Check with your city’s parks and recreation department, Ontario’s after school programs, community centres, churches or your child’s school for programs near you.

Dance! 

Rainy or cold outside? Try your dance moves! Dancing is popular for both boys and girls. Turn on your favourite music and dance! There are many different kinds of dancing; find one that is right for you. A few examples are hip hop, belly dancing, tap, jazz and salsa. Many cultures are famous for their styles of dances. Experience a dance from across the globe!

5 ways to get active when the weather is cold

  1. Build a snowman or fort in the yard, make snow angels, go tobogganing on the nearest hill or head to the outdoor skate rink.  
  2. Visit your local community centre. Go for a free swim, play basketball or run around the track.
  3. Dance, sing and play. Dance with your kids and do the actions to your child’s favourite songs like the Hokey Pokey. See the Busy Bodies resource for great ideas to get young children active.
  4. Join a class or sport like dance, taekwondo, karate, basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, water polo, swimming lessons, squash, gymnastics, trampoline, figure skating or hockey. Many of your favourite summer sports have indoor training or leagues in the winter.
  5. Enjoy a winter sport. Go downhill or cross country skiing, snow shoeing, curling, play pond hockey or go for a hike.

5 ways to get kids active when the weather is warm

  1. Get wet! Run through a sprinkler, visit a splash pad or jump in your neighbour’s pool! 
  2. Enjoy the outdoors. Arrange an outdoor treasure hunt, search for bugs and birds or go fishing.
  3. Bike and discover. Go for a family bike ride. Head to different areas to discover new neighbourhoods and trails.
  4. Try a sport. Shoot hoops, go to the skate park, play road hockey, badminton, synchronized swimming, tennis or soccer to name a few.
  5. Get camping! Sign up for a summer camp that focuses on physical activity.

5 ways to get kids active on weekends

  1. Bring sport equipment like a soccer ball, Frisbee, bocce set and badminton rackets to the family picnic. 
  2. Play a competitive sport or join swimming, dancing or karate classes.
  3. Go for long bike rides or hikes and pack a healthy picnic for your adventure!
  4. Arrange a mini tournament with the kids on the block. Choose one sport or a variety of sports for your day’s competition. 
  5. Head to the ski slopes or Provincial Park to snow shoe or cross country ski with friends and family.

Bottom line

Physical activity can be easy and fun. Be a role model and get active with your kids so that the whole family will benefit. 

You may also be interested in: 

9 Great Websites for Physical Activity and Sport

Fall for Physical Activity

Families Who Play Together

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for children ages 5-11

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for youth ages 12-17

ParticipACTION

For more information on after-school programs in your area, please visit:

YMCA: http://www.ymca.ca/  

Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada: http://www.bgccan.com/EN/Pages/default.aspx

Last Update – November 1, 2017

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