Make physical activity fun and a part of your child’s life to give them a healthy head start in life.
Just like eating and sleeping, sports and physical activity should be part of your child's daily routine. By adding physical activity to their everyday life, you’re giving your child a more holistic upbringing.
The best part about adding physical activity is that it can start right away — even before they crawl, your child can engage in floor-based play.
Children aged six years old and below (≤6) should aim for at least 180 minutes of physical activity of any intensity spread throughout each day. It doesn’t have to be all at once and every minute counts1. Additionally, for children from the ages of three, 60 minutes of the time spent actively should be of moderate- to vigorous- intensity.
Children above six years old (>6) should also include activities that strengthen muscles and bones at least three times a week2.
When your children have an active lifestyle there are many benefits:
Health Benefits of Exercise and Physical Activity
What’s just as important as exercise is limiting your children’s screen time — TV, devices, phones. Children under 18 months old should not be allowed any passive viewing screen time (passive viewing refers to screen viewing without adult co-viewing and interaction) as the early years are a critical window for children’s cognitive development3.
Children between 18 and 36 months should have no more than 1 hour of unsupervised passive viewing screen time each day.
Some studies also indicate that engaging in outdoor activities results in a lower risk for myopia.
Good Eye Care Habits
At this age, children have seemingly endless energy and they love running, jumping and playing. They are still developing fundamental motor skills such as: locomotion, object-control and stability. They are also learning how to follow instructions and rules; and socialise with their playmates.
Here are 3 ways you can help your child to start and enjoy being active:
Let them run, jump, hop, skip – whatever they feel like doing. Free play (unstructured play), and organised sports, gets your child moving and sweating. Children 6 years old and below love chasing their friends around; and playing hide and seek. There is also no need for active play to be overly structured and complex. What you want is for your child to play freely and really enjoy himself while working up a sweat.
Every child is different. Some will love soccer, others will prefer cycling. In addition, there are benefits for exposing children to a variety of activities. Ball games, cycling, dancing, gymnastics and swimming are all suitable activities for your pre-schooler. If your child shows no interest in a particular sport, let them try another. Eventually, they’ll figure out what they like better.
Your child sees you as his role model. Love the water? Share your love with your child. Teach him how to swim, hold his breath or do somersaults in the pool. Were you a basketball player in your school days? Guide your child on how to throw and catch confidently. Along the way, you may also learn a thing or two from your child about the pleasures of free play.
At this age, they have much better control of their vision, concentration span and motor skills. They are also better able to understand and follow instructions.
As your child is just starting school, he is also meeting with and interacting with more adults and other children. Social skills have become more important to him. To develop further, he has to learn how to handle conflict, share, play in a group; and react well to winning and losing.
Here are 3 ways you can use physical activity or sports to help your child develop:
Badminton or tennis? Soccer or basketball? Volleyball or track and field? Help your child explore various sports which will create more opportunities to develop their fundamental motor skills. Soccer players need to be able to run and dribble at the same time. Badminton players then need to be able to have hand-eye coordination. In exploring the different sports together, you’ll be helping him to understand his interests, abilities and personality.
When you know what excites your child, you can better motivate him to accomplish goals. Activities like sports are opportunities to uncover motivations. Does he gravitate towards team activities where there’s plenty of fun and laughter? Or does he prefer to train alone and win competitions? Share your observations with him so he, too, knows what motivates him.
Most group activities involve teamwork. For team sports like basketball and soccer, your child will have to play in a team. For other sports like track and field, your child will be part of and training in a team. Team activities will give your child a strong foundation of teamwork as he will have to learn how to manage conflict, winning and losing.
Children aged 10 to 12 years old have better vision, coordination and balance. They can play in teams and also understand sports strategies. Some may also be able to coordinate well with their teammates to execute strategies.
At this age, it is likely that your child has some activities that he enjoys and wants to do regularly. He will need a schedule, discipline and a sense of responsibility to continue engaging in the activities he enjoys while juggling schoolwork.
He will also need more support from his parents from obtaining proper sports equipment/attire or taking time out to send and fetch him from his activities as he is still too young to travel on his own.
Here are 3 ways you can help your child to grow:
Involvement in a regular or structured programme not only provide systematic training but also opportunities for your child to experience how commitment pays off. As he undergoes regular training, his skills will improve and he will feel a sense of mastery over the sport or activity.
Show an interest in your child’s co-curriculum activities. When does he train? What does he enjoy about the game? Who are his favourite teammates? Encourage him to share with you and be there to give him strong support if he wants to sign up for the school or national team.
Holidays is one of the best times to do new things together. Explore new activities together, especially activities he might not be able to experience in schools such as hiking or snorkelling. You will help him to develop a lifelong love for trying new activities which will keep him fit and fun as he grows into adulthood.
Related: Outdoor Activities That Make Fitness Fun in Singapore
Introduce sports to your child just like you would any other type of activity. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Finding out what interests them always works better than forcing them to do a sport. Encourage your child to take part in out-of-school physical activity lessons (e.g. martial arts or dance).
Take part in physical activity as a family.
These help your child develop both physical and technical prowess as well as social and communicative skills.
The perfect family weekend balances physical and leisure activities. Find something kids of all ages can enjoy together, like ball games, frisbee or cycling.
Things like a ball, jump rope or pair of in-line skates can get your child moving while bringing many hours of fun.
Related: Benefits of Playing Team Sports
Being physically active is about having an active lifestyle in general. Playing sports or going for workouts are just one aspect. Here’s how you and your child can stay active together:
Related: Let’s All Move It, Move It!
Sometimes, when children get excited while playing, they may forget about their safety. Teach your child to observe some safety tips and ensure there is adult supervision when needed.
Here are some safety tips you can share with your child:
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Read these next:
Health Promotion Board (May 2013). National Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Youth Aged up to 18 Years. Health Promotion Board. Retrieved September 2021
This article was last reviewed on
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
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