Tips for parents, family/whānau and caregivers on the kinds of physical activity children need to be healthy.
Both children and adults need to be physically active and eat healthily to live well. Check out the tips below and discover more about how to make sure your children exercise right so they can grow well.
Get active daily
Daily physical exercise will keep your child healthy. Children should do a minimum of an hour of mild to intense physical activity every day. Try for plenty of mild exercises and some intense physical activities. This will help them to:
- Grow healthy, strong bones, muscles, and joints.
- Increase flexibility and balance.
- Grow and sustain healthy lungs and heart.
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Make friends and enjoy themselves.
- Develop good self-esteem.
Children will be breathing more quickly and their heart rates will be a little bit faster. A good indicator of a mild level of exercise would be that your child can still talk with you whilst exercising. Try these suggestions:
- walking the dog
- bike ride in the park
- swimming in the pool
- playing on the playground
- Kapa haka
- surfing, bodyboarding, or skim boarding at the beach
Children will be puffed and their heart rates will be faster than during mild exercise (above).
A good indicator of a hard level of exercise would be that your child will only be able to say a couple of words to you and then will need to take a breath. Try these suggestions:
- running games such as bull rush or tag
- swimming laps at the pool
- soccer, rugby
- playing touch rugby with friends, family/whanau
- Waka ama.
(Ministry of Health, NZ, 2018)
Encourage physical exercise
- Provide chances for your children to be physically active every day, with play, cultural events, dance, sports, creative games around the house, household chores, and when travelling (e.g. riding a bike to school, walking to a friends, scooting or skateboarding to the dairy).
- Try a range of activities to discover the ones that your child likes most. Encourage your child in every activity and offer positive feedback.
- Engage in physical activity as a family and let every family member have a turn in choosing an activity to try.
Turn technology off
Try to limit your child's ʻscreen timeʼ (TV, mobile phone, video games, movies) to under 2 hours a day. Try to inspire children to be active in a range of ways and as much as possible.
Be a role model
Your children look up to you, if you're physically active every day, this will most likely rub off on your children and make them more active too.
If you're ever unsure – consult your:
- GP, practice nurse, public health nurse.
- Nearest District Health Board and request a dietitian or Public Health Service.
- Māori/Pacifica health workers and/or marae-based health services.
HANDS UP – intro to physical and health literacy
HANDS UP for health and physical literacy is a three part illustrated video series that will help children and youth build the ground level knowledge needed to lead a healthy and active life every day.
Physical activities for under 5's NZ Ministry of Health
Activities for children and young people NZ Ministry of Health
Games for kids Health Promotion Agency
Developing fundamental movement skills for children Sport NZ
Play, sport and physical activity for young people Sport NZ
Activity and Nutrition Aotearoa
Supporting Physical Development in Early Childhood Future Learn. Fee applies. The course is designed for adults involved in caring for or educating babies and young children.
Food and nutrition guidelines for healthy children and young people (aged 2–18 years) – a background paper. Ministry of Health NZ, partially revised 2015
Active movement activity guides for children 0-5 years Sport NZ, 2015