The Fun of Fitness!

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.

Recommended Activity Levels

According to Centre for Holistic Initiatives for Learning & Development (CHILD), 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.

Benefits of Staying Active

When your children have an active lifestyle there are many benefits:

  • Improved aerobic and muscular fitness
  • Favourable body composition
  • Improved bone health
  • Improved heart, lung, and metabolic health markers
  • Reduced symptoms of stress and anxiety
  • Improved self-esteem

Related: Health Benefits of Exercise and Physical Activity

Screen Time and Eye Health

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.

Related: Good Eye Care Habits

Fun Fitness for Pre-Schoolers (3 to 6 years old)

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:

#1 Encourage Fun and Free Play

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.

#2 Try Different Activities

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.

#3 Play Together

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.

Suggested activities for pre-schoolers: ball games (involving a lot of kicking, throwing and running around), dancing, gymnastics, karate, riding a bicycle, swimming. For more ideas, check out our Move IT programmes for children.

Fun Fitness for Children in Lower Primary (7 to 9 years old)

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:

#1 Explore Different Sports

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.

#2 Identify Motivations Through Sports

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.

#3 Join Organised Group Activities

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.

Suggested activities for children in lower primary: badminton, basketball, football, tennis, track and field, volleyball. For more ideas, check out our Move IT programmes for children.

Fun Fitness for Children in Upper Primary (10 to 12 years old)

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:

#1 Participate in a Structured Programme

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.

#2 Support Your Child's Co-Curriculum Activities

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.

#3 Continue To Introduce New Activities

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.

Suggested activities for children in upper primary: basketball, in-line skating, floorball, football, hockey, indoor rock-climbing, martial arts. For more ideas, check out our Move IT programmes for children.

Related: Outdoor Activities That Make Fitness Fun in Singapore

Tips for Parents

How to Introduce Sports to Your Child

Introduce sports to your child just like you would any other type of activity. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Let Your Children Choose Activities They Like

    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).

  • Be a Role Model

    Take part in physical activity as a family.

  • Encourage Participation in Team Sports

    These help your child develop both physical and technical prowess as well as social and communicative skills.

  • Include Sports in Your Family’s Weekend Activities

    The perfect family weekend balances physical and leisure activities. Find something kids of all ages can enjoy together, like ball games, frisbee or cycling.

  • Select ‘Toys’ or Gifts that Promote Physical Activity

    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

How to Stay Active Daily

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:

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator.
  • Take a walk around the neighbourhood together after dinner.
  • Do light exercises like sit-ups and walking on the spot while watching TV.
  • Involve your child in household chores like mopping, sweeping, or washing the car.
  • Encourage your child to walk to school, or get off one bus stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.

Related: Let’s All Move It, Move It!

How to Exercise Safely

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:

  • Put on suitable clothes and shoes when exercising.
  • Exercise before meals or at least 2 hours after a heavy meal.
  • Do warm-ups and cool down before and after exercise.
  • Avoid exercising when unwell or soon after recovery from an illness.
  • Stop immediately if you feel giddy, breathless or experience pain.
  • Avoid exercising outdoors during the hottest time of the day.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear such as helmet, knee and elbow guards for activities such as cycling or roller-blading.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.

Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your child a healthy start.

Visit Active Parents, for more tips and resources.

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Read these next:

  1. Health Promotion Board (May 2013). National Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Youth Aged up to 18 Years. Health Promotion Board. Retrieved September 2021

  1. World Health Organization (Nov 2020). WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. World Health Organization. Retrieved September 2021
  1. Centre for Holistic Initiatives for Learning & Development (Jul 2021).  Impact of screen viewing during early childhood on cognitive development. URL:
  1. Meadors, L. C., PhD. (2012, May 28). Practical Application for Long-Term Athletic Development. NSCA. Retrieved September 2021 from
  1. Williams, M.-J. (2014, April 23). How to put the fun back in youth sports. The Washington Post. Retrieved September 2021