Top tips for everyday physicality

Even everyday journeys and mundane chores can be used to encourage children to be more physically active.  Here are some ideas, suggested by the Outdoors and Active project team:

  • Use the stairs whenever you can.  Start by encouraging children to use the stairs in the home or in flats, shops and when out and about.  If there is a choice of steps or a ramp, use the steps.  Walk up and down escalators, rather than just ‘riding’ them.
  • Help children learn how to jump and land safely – this could begin indoors, jumping from the bed or sofa onto cushions.  Outdoors, search for low walls, steps and logs to jump over and from.
  • Using obstacles and features in the streetscape to encourage movement, e.g. under and over bike stands, up and down steps, along lines or cracks in the pavement, jumping over bollards, reaching to touch things high up, picking leaves.
  • Always take the “scenic route” – that usually means a slightly longer route!  It might also mean a route that has more interesting street features or obstacles to tackle, or more hills, steps or bushes to play in.
  • Give children a meaningful role in clearing up after outdoor play.  Child sized brooms, gardening tools and storage boxes mean they can be fully involved.  It might take longer at first, as you show them how to clear up, how to carry safely and where to put all the toys, but in the long term they’ll be able to take responsibility for clearing up and it won’t take nearly so long.
  • Give children a small backpack to wear, containing their water bottle, a healthy snack and a treasure bag.  Wearing a backpack alters children’s centre of gravity and forces the body to adjust its posture and pace.  Don’t overload the backpack, and children will gain from the extra responsibility of carrying their own ‘stuff’.
  • Think about footwear.  During or after rain, use wellington boots, so that you can actively encourage children to splash in puddles or wade through mud.  Wear shoes with good grips when out and about in the parks and open spaces of Newham, so that children can safely run, climb trees and negotiate obstacles.
  • Think about going barefoot.  Children’s feet are very sensitive and their bodies and faces react in unpredictable ways to barefoot walking outdoors.  Of course it’s important to ensure there’s no glass or dog mess underfoot, but testing their balance and building core strength by moving over different and awkward textures and surfaces is a good way for children to build physicality and resilience.
  • Allow children to help with everyday tasks: carrying some of the shopping;
  • Perhaps the most important Top Tip was to always allow an extra ten minutes for every journey, to enable children to make these physically active movements – if you’re in a rush, children won’t get time to explore their environment or their bodies, and an opportunity to work towards the British Heart Foundation’s three hours of physical activity per day will have been missed.

To get an printable copy of these ideas to take with you, download these Top Tips for Everyday Physicality

Outdoors and Active also generated a list of great suggestions for a physicality Grab and Go Kit – you can view and download the list on our Grab and Go Kit page.

Further reading

Outdoors and Active

Outdoors and Active – an action research project commissioned by the London Borough of Newham – took practitioners from nurseries, schools, PVI settings and children’s

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What to do

Busy modern lives are having a dramatic impact on the health and wellbeing of our youngest children.  They play outdoors less, spend more time being

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Boing! Whoosh! RolyPoly!

Toddlers need plenty of balance practice once they are up and walking. Each of the three semi-circular canals in the inner ear respond to movement in different

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Overcoming barriers

An early task for the Outdoors and Active action researchers was to identify the barriers to taking children out and about beyond the setting.  Only

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Taking risks in play

Human beings are “hardwired” to take risks, from birth.  Babies take their first independent breaths; they decide to try crawling and walking and then running;

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Audit your environment

To audit the current provision for physical development outdoors in your school or setting, you can download our three sample audit sheets below. You should

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Grab and Go Kits

Some of the childminders involved in the Outdoors and Active project thought that a kit of easy to carry, low cost resources could encourage children

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