Toddlers (1 to 3 years) and pre-schoolers (3 to 5 years) should be physically active every day for at least 3 hours, spread throughout the day.

Active play

Active play helps kids to grow strong and healthy.

Active play helps kids:

  • grow healthy bones and strong muscles
  • improve heart health
  • develop imagination
  • build self confidence
  • learn about their body
  • enjoy being active
  • learn how to take turns, share and care about others.

Some things kids like to do:

  • tumble, run, hop and jump
  • dance to music
  • build things
  • play dress ups
  • pretend to be animals or super heroes
  • play organised games like ‘hide and seek’
  • explore or go bush.

Keep kids safe

  • Active play should be fun – watch kids at all times to make sure
  • nobody gets hurt.
  • Always look out for kids especially around water,
  • cars, animals and fireplaces.
  • Kids can get hurt in falls – watch kids when they climb or are
  • playing near steps.
  • Give kids plenty of water to drink, especially in warm weather.
Too much sun can make kids sick. When playing outside use sunscreen and hats and play in the shade.

Kids 1 to 5 years develop important skills like walking, running, jumping and throwing a ball

Types of active play

  • Unstructured or free play.
  • Types of active play
  • Unstructured or free play.
  • Structured or organised play.
  • Active transport such as walking to the early childhood service.
  • Everyday physical tasks. Top of page
Unstructured play gives kids the freedom to move at their own pace and decide how and where they will play, like:
  • free play in playgrounds or sandpits
  • dancing to music
  • imaginative play and pretend games.
Structured play is planned play that may have rules or need special equipment, like:
  • dancing and singing
  • action games, such as ‘hide and seek’
  • problem solving games.
Active transport means walking or riding a bike or scooter to travel. As kids get older and stronger they can walk and pedal further.

Ideas for active transport

  • Walking instead of driving in the car.
  • Walking instead of being in the pram or stroller.
  • Walking or riding a scooter to early childhood services.
Talk to kids about road safety while you are walking. Kids need to be watched when they are near cars or roads.

Everyday physical tasks

Kids can help with:
  • gardening
  • tidying up
  • setting the table for mealtimes
  • setting up and packing up games.

Playing outside

Playing outside is important – it gives kids more space to play together, make big movements and be noisy and messy.

Playing outside can help kids to:

  • make big movements
  • get fresh air
  • make a lot of noise
  • play in nature – run through grass and roll down hills
  • build strong muscles and bones
  • look for adventure and explore.

Culture and play

Top of page
  • Culture is important in play.
  • Talk to Elders or other adults about traditional Indigenous games for kids.
  • Elders can tell traditional stories and stories from their lives.
  • Get families involved in music, dance, singing and story-telling.
  • Talk to parents and local Elders about including local Indigenous cultural stories and activities.

Kids don’t need expensive toys to play

  • Kids can play with boxes, clothes, wooden blocks, baskets, cushions, mats, pots and pans, balls, pegs, buckets, leaves, branches and old furniture.
  • Make sure the things kids play with are safe and clean.
  • Some objects that are good for older kids might not be safe for the young ones.

Movement ideas for kids

  • As they grow you can help kids to learn new skills.
  • Start with simple activities and move on to more complex ones.

Lower body

Start with:
  • jumping or running on the spot or to music
  • kicking large balls or empty plastic containers
  • walking and running on different surfaces like sand or grass
  • running at different speeds and in different directions.

Move on to:

  • jumping over or around
  • objects like ropes or hoops
  • jumping like an animal
  • kicking higher
  • walking sideways, backwards and forwards
  • walking on tip-toes or along a rope placed on the ground
  • running backwards or around objects.

Upper body

Start with:
  • building with big cardboard boxes
  • hitting large beach balls or scrunched up paper
  • throwing balloons or light balls.
Move on to:
  • building with small objects like blocksTop of page
  • hitting and throwing balls with one hand and then the other
  • digging with spades in dirt and sand.

Whole body

Start with:
  • dancing to music and sounds
  • climbing on pillows and under furniture
  • balancing on ropes and chalk lines.
Move on to:
  • dancing fast and slow or learning dance steps
  • climbing on low branches, ladders, ropes and boxes
  • balancing on planks of wood and logs
  • building with wood, boxes and buckets.

You can use these words to encourage kids to play and move in new ways

How the body moves

  • How fast can you go?
  • Can you do that slowly?
  • Can you do that fast and then very slowly?
  • Can you do that and wobble at the same time?

Where the body moves

  • Can you do that forwards?
  • Can you do that backwards?
  • Can you go under/over that?
  • How high can you go?
  • Can you move in a circle?

What the body can do

  • Can you curl up?
  • How big can you be?
  • Can you do that lying down?
  • Can you do that with your hands in the air?
  • Can you do that on one leg?

Some kids will need to be encouraged to be active

  • Show kids how to use play equipment.
  • Join in the fun with them.
  • Encourage them to make up games.
  • Teach them new skills like hopping or jumping.

Kids with disabilities

  • Active play is good for all kids.
  • Talk to parents or carers to find out how a disability affects the everyday life of their child.
  • Find out what you can do to help meet the interests and abilities of the child.
  • All kids should be encouraged to be active, whatever their level of ability.

Keep our kids safe

  • Playing should be fun – watch kids at all times to make sure nobody gets hurt.
  • Always look out for kids around water, cars, animals and fireplaces.
  • Keep an eye on kids when playing, especially when they are climbing, balancing or playing near steps.
  • Give kids plenty of water to drink, especially in warm weather.
  • Join in kids’ play but make sure the play is still led by the kids.
When outside:
  • use sunscreen
  • wear hats and suitable clothes
  • play in the shade.