5-8 years

In the primary school years your child will enjoy testing out his physical abilities. He’ll get a lot of self-esteem from new physical achievements too. Here are play ideas to encourage your child to keep moving.

Daily movement for school kids: why it’s important

Children need lots of movement and physical activity every day. That’s because movement is vital for health and wellbeing. Moving strengthens muscles and bones and improves coordination.

Play is one of the best ways to keep your school-age child moving and active.

What to expect: school kids and movement

In general, the more opportunities for physical activity and movement your child has, the more skills your child will develop and the more she’ll be able to do.

At 5-8 years, your child might be able to:

  • ride a two-wheeler bike
  • climb a ladder, and swing on monkey bars
  • swim
  • throw, catch and kick balls of different sizes and shapes
  • skip and cartwheel
  • write his name
  • dress independently.

At this age, many children might try taking some risks when they play to find out what their bodies can do. So don’t be surprised if you see your child climbing trees, swinging on play equipment and jumping down steps.

Play ideas to keep kids moving

Children enjoy doing activities with their family – for example, kicking a ball, playing cricket or throwing a frisbee with you and their siblings. Other outdoor play activities that keep children moving include gardening and pretend play.

If it’s not too far, you could also try simple things like walking with your child to or from school. This is a great chance for physical activity. To keep things interesting, you could ask your child about her day or play a game of ‘I spy’.

Your child might want to try new activities like skateboarding and rollerblading. Just make sure he’s wearing the right safety gear. This includes a helmet, wrist pads and knee pads.

And if your child is interested, you could sign her up to an athletics program that includes activities like jumping, throwing, walking and running activities. About five years is a good time to find out whether your child would like this. Other child-friendly modified sports are In2CRICKET, Aussie Hoops basketball, NetSetGO netball, Come and Try Rugby, and Auskick football.

At this age, children might find organised sports lots of fun but it’s still important for your child to have time for unstructured play. Unstructured play is when your child chooses what and how to play. This could be dancing to some music or playing a pretend game he has made up. 

Screen time limits

At this age, children can enjoy some screen time. But it’s important to balance screen time with other activities that are essential for your child’s development. These include physically active play, creative play like solving puzzles and drawing, and conversation with family and friends.

Too much screen time can lead to a less active lifestyle, which could lead to obesity. If you reduce the amount of time your child spends using screens, you can reduce the risks for your child. 

Your child is a unique individual with her own interests, skills, abilities and ways of learning. Along with your child’s past experiences and opportunities, these things shape what your child can do physically. If you have any concerns about your child’s physical development, talk with your child’s teacher or your GP.

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Last updated or reviewed
19-12-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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