You’ve got to move it, move it: Importance of physical activity for kids

By Hannah Schenker

Regular physical activity benefits everyone – improving not only your physical health but your mental, social and spiritual wellbeing too. Physical activities can contribute to your personal development and self-esteem too. Children and the choices they make are influenced greatly by society, so it’s up to us to provide them with plenty of stimulation to include physical activity in their daily life, and set up healthy habits for them going forward. Oh and make it fun, too!

Sport NZ suggests children between 5-18 years should:

  • Throughout each day, do sixty minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity (mostly aerobic) – easy for your energetic child!
  • Be active in as many ways as possible, for example, through play, cultural activities, dance, sport and recreation, jobs, and going from place to place – this is where your input can bring in an element of adventure or fun.
  • Be active with friends and whānau, at home, school, and in their communities – which is great for encouraging your friends to get active as well.
  • Spend less than two hours a day (out of school time) in front of the television, computers, and game consoles – this is super important these days as our device time is going crazy.

For kids, physical activity basically means play, play, play! Aerobic activities include things like running, jogging, swimming, and walking; sports like basketball, soccer and tennis; and travel activities like cycling or skating. Your child does not need to be playing organised sports to be physical either – playing games like tag, playing on monkey bars, even tying their own shoes all involves movement of the body.

Strength and flexibility are also important parts of your child’s development. This doesn’t mean pumping weights or doing push ups – their normal playtime activities like climbing trees, swimming at the beach, doing handstands and wrestling with friends are all utilising their muscles and joints.

The kinds of things you might need for an active child:

  • Good nutrition.
    A portable, nutritious snack. What goes in acts as fuel for the growing body – so make sure your child heads off with good food in their backpack. Think hard-boiled eggs, veges and hummus, nuts, fresh fruit, lean meats and and whole grains. Here are a few tips to get you started.
  • A waterproof sports bag for wet gear.
    Most Kiwi kids have at least one sports activity a week – so you’ll need something that can easily hold a few items. The Stinky Bag from Little Leaf Eco is fantastic because it has separate sections – so your child with wet swimming gear or stinky shoes can easily tuck their things away without their whole bag being affected. They’ll be able to carry sweaty PE gear, muddy trainers, swimming gear and anything that gets dirty, wet or stinky! Best of all, it’s washable to make life easier
  • Clothes they can move in.
    They are going to get sweaty, dirty, wet and possibly torn as they run, jump, climb and play, so you want them wearing something that’s easily washable and doesn’t matter if it gets a bit muddied up.
  • A reusable drink bottle and sun protection.
    Common sense, really! We all know this, but it’s important for your child to follow your lead and protect their skin with a natural sunscreen, and stay hydrated by bringing their reusable drink bottle with them.

What is your child’s favourite physical activity? Do they like organised games or free play? Are they natural born tree climbers or do they like to walk to their favourite friend’s house to play? Leave us a comment below!

Hannah Schenker is a freelance writer, editor and regular contributor to The Natural Parent Magazine. She lives with a touch of magic in Golden Bay, New Zealand. 


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