- We all have a great opportunity and a responsibility to ensure our children get enough exercise in their modern lives.
- We should aim that children exercise for at least an hour every day* (see Make it more energetic below) and this hour can be achieved in bite size chunks.
- We hope the family friendly Make it happen activities will give parents and carers plenty of ideas for supervising a range of physical activities for your children that each last at least 10 minutes and can be added to other activity to go towards achieving an hour a day.
- We hope you find the family friendly move to improve activities useful as a basic guide to point out the type of general things a parent/carer can consider when supervising activity for your own children within a family setting.
- You will find many new activities and variations of well-known ones that we hope you will have fun adapting for your own family environment.
- NICE guidelines (last reviewed 2012): ‘government advice that children and young people should undertake a minimum of 60 minutes moderate to vigorous physical activity a day… at least twice a week, this should include activities to improve bone health, muscle strength and flexibility.’
- Please consider the family friendly move to improve content we provide cannot take into account the particular circumstances you may encounter when running activities and parents/carers are solely responsible for its use.
- There are always risks associated with taking part in any physical activity and parents/carers should always apply common sense when you plan and carry out activities to ensure they are appropriate for every child taking part and are suitable for the indoors or outdoors space you have available.
- Parents/carers may need to adapt activities to suit the needs of individual children and to take account of the available space and circumstances.
It’s important that as parents and carers we are role models and find ways to build physical activity into the daily lives of our family. The family friendly move to improve activities can be added to other daily activity to help children exercise for at least an hour every day.
For example, activity could be in the form of taking part in playing games, regular recreational activities, sport, making journeys by walking or cycling, opting for the stairs rather than taking a lift, etc.
Getting the right amount of exercise has plenty of benefits:
- It’s fun, makes you feel good
- It can be sociable, you can exercise on your own or with family and friends and it can lead to you meeting new friends
- It’s essential for long term health and well-being
- It promotes confidence and independence
- It helps develop movement skills, strength and co-ordination
- It can lead to a lifelong involvement in sport and physical activity
- The Make it safe sections of the family friendly move to improve activities are provided as a guide to help parents/carers and we hope you will find them useful.
- Parents/carers are usually instinctively aware of how to supervise safe activity for their children and much of our guidance is simply about applying common sense and asking key questions.
- We cannot possibly list all the risks that you may need to consider when you are supervising activity for your children and every situation will be different. As a guide only of the type of things you may wish to think about, we have listed some considerations below.
- The responsibility is always with each parent/carer to ensure any activity is safe for the participants involved and the health and wellbeing of each child is always considered.
- If parent/carers consider that an activity cannot be made safe and appropriate for a particular child or children or for particular circumstances that may arise then the activity should not go ahead and a different activity should be chosen.
Some general considerations when supervising physical activity for your children:
- Is the space large enough?
- Is the surface suitable for the activity you want to do?
Some ideas: check for any objects, debris, litter, furniture, fixtures or obstructions that could be a hazard; check that the ground is an even surface that doesn’t have bumps or holes that could cause trips and falls; check for any slip hazards; do you need to advise children to be careful because the surface is hard? Will the surface affect the type of equipment you can use?
- Check the area is on one level and there isn’t anything the children might fall off.
- Is there anything in the vicinity they could collide with or that could break off or fall on them?
- Is the children’s speed too fast? Start slowly and build up gradually. Suggest movement types that allow the speed to be more controlled e.g. walking, marching, skipping, jogging, etc
- Is the movement too acrobatic for the age/ability of the child? Don’t let them attempt anything that could put them at risk. Pay special attention to the safety of their head, neck, spine, joints, vital organs, etc) during any movement.
- When jumping or hopping remind children to bend their knees when they land to absorb the force.
- Is too much force being used? Is the movement suitable for the strength/ability of each child? Bear in mind that in all age groups, all children develop at different rates to others. Consider what is suitable for each individual to cope with regardless of what others of a similar age and size can achieve.
We recommend that wherever possible you always use equipment in an activity that has been designed for that purpose.
We understand that some families may not have immediate access to sports or play equipment but this need not stop you from organising physical activities for your children with some improvised equipment. In our move to improve activities we have provided some ideas in the Make your equipment suitable sections.
There are also plenty of activities that don’t require any equipment at all. However if you are in any doubt as to whether something is safe or appropriate then don’t use it – if in doubt, leave it out.
Some points to consider:
- Is the equipment you are using in the activity safe for that purpose?
Depending on how it is being used, including a plastic bottle as a piece of improvised equipment in an activity might be ok in some circumstances but using a glass bottle wouldn’t be in any circumstances;
A sheet of paper that is scrunched up into a small ball and secured with sticky tape can be used as an object to throw or catch, but if it is used as a football it could be flattened as it is kicked and trodden on, and potentially be a slip hazard.
- Is the equipment in a good condition for use? Look at each piece of equipment you want to use and consider if it is safe for what you intend to do with it.
Some ideas: are there sharp edges? could it break? it is too heavy/light? is it too hard? is it too bulky/large/small? etc
- Are the children using the equipment responsibly?
- Certain things when placed on certain surfaces can cause a slip hazard (e.g. a piece of cardboard on a polished floor).
- If in doubt, leave it out.
- Prevent collisions by managing the way children move together.
Some ideas: create ‘lanes’, take turns in a relay. Ask the children what they can do to avoid collisions e.g. look around them at all times, control their speed and direction and stop moving when necessary
- Does everyone in the activity area have suitable space for what they need to do? The activity space should be free of anyone not participating and whether you are at home or in a public space there should be no risk that anyone else will move through the activity area e.g. if you are in a park then be considerate and ensure the area you are using is well away from others, stop the activity or move it to somewhere else if there is a risk.
Consider health and wellbeing
- The health of your child is of paramount importance, regular daily exercise is proven to be a fundamental part of healthy development and in most cases our family friendly move to improve activities should be suitable exercise. If for any reason at any time before, during or after physical activity, you have any concerns for your child’s health then you must seek advice from a health professional.
- If your child has any underlying medical conditions then you will need to consider that when they take part in physical activity. If for any reason at any time before, during or after physical activity, you have any concerns for your child’s health then you must seek advice from a health professional.
Some children enjoy exercise and some children may not, but all children should enjoy fun.
Each child will know what’s fun for them so make sure you involve their ideas in planning and running the activities.
The idea behind the family friendly move to improve activities is that they are enjoyable fun and games experiences that parents can supervise for their children (and join in wherever possible).
See the Make it fun heading with each activity for ideas for imaginative themes, storylines and contexts that can turn simple movement into something that is simple fun.
You’ll notice that each activity is presented by a different Activity Leader – the Leapers, and each activity has a Leaper’s theme which we hope your children will enjoy. Meet all the Leapers here.
Making a physical activity into a challenge is a good way to motivate children to want to perform it, complete it and return to it.
It could be that an activity is turned into a race, a timed activity or has a target to achieve, etc.
The challenge could be one that is set and achieved within the timeframe of each session or it could be something that is longer term and spread out over a few days or weeks (such as recording points on a league table or a progress chart). Children will get a level of satisfaction from simply achieving a challenge or it may be that you can also link it to a reward (see Make it a reward below).
See the Make it a challenge heading for each activity for suggestions on how to make each one more involving for the children.
For a small investment you can buy a range of equipment that will be safe, fun and colourful to use in your activities, we would recommend you do this and ensure that all equipment is used for a purpose it is suitable for.
With a little thought it is possible you may be able to find everyday objects that are suitable to include in you activities; e.g. for a game of football it would be great to use marker cones or a pop up goal, however, using a couple of jumpers for goal posts has enabled many games to go ahead perfectly well over the generations.
* We recommend that you buy or borrow some basic equipment to use in your activities. With just a few plastic marker saucers or flat marker spots you can organise a whole host of different games and activities.
* Balls of different sizes are readily available, mostly inexpensive and make great gifts. For the 3-7yr age group, lightweight plastic footballs and palm sized bouncy balls are easy for them to use and it isn’t necessary to purchase expensive sports equipment in order for children to be active.
* Hula hoops and skipping ropes are relatively inexpensive items that children can save up for or receive for birthdays or at Christmas or can be given as a reward (see Make it a Reward).
If you don’t have access to sports/play equipment, then with a bit of thought and planning it can be fun to make temporary improvised equipment with your children and there are plenty of books and websites with helpful suggestions. E.g. you could make a temporary ball by rolling up a sheet of paper to the size of an apple and securing it with sticky tape. These balls can be thrown and caught,
collected and rolled.
Please consider it is the parent or carers responsibility to always ensure all items of equipment being used whether improvised or not are suitable and safe for the purpose they are being used for (see Make it safe).
The government advises that children and young people should undertake a minimum of 60 minutes moderate to vigorous* physical activity every day and that at least twice a week it should include activities to improve bone health, muscle strength and flexibility.
* To help contribute to this, the family friendly move to improve activities include fundamental movement skills such as running, jumping, skipping, leaping, hopping, galloping, sidestepping, rolling, crawling, balancing, etc.
* To ensure children are getting the fullest exercise benefit from each activity, please see the suggestions under the Make it more energetic heading of each activity.
*What is vigorous activity?
We can tell when an activity is vigorous as we start to notice some immediate changes in our bodies. You may want to talk about this with your children as these changes are signs to show they are performing the type of exercise that will help their bodies develop healthily.
Types of changes to expect:
* Children may notice their breathing is faster, their heart is beating faster, they are feeling hotter, they are sweating. This happens because the more energy a particular activity requires, the faster our muscles use up their existing energy.
* It means we then need to breath faster to get more air into our lungs and our heart needs to pump faster to get the oxygen delivered quickly to the muscles (the oxygen contains new energy).
* With all this going on in our bodies it makes us hotter and so our bodies may produce sweat to cool us down.
* As long as these changes only occur as a result of exercising and we recover quickly, take rest breaks in between and drink plenty of water, then this type of exercise performed daily should be good to help our bodies develop.
NB: Please consider if an individual feels dizzy or light headed, or has difficulty breathing or develops a headache or feels sick or over-tired and doesn’t recover fairly quickly after stopping the exercise. It may be that the activity is too vigorous for an individual and you may wish to consult a medical professional if you have any concerns or the symptoms persist.
Our basic message is that children should get plenty of exercise that is appropriate for them.
- The move to improve/Make it happen activities describe plenty of ways to make activities fun, challenging, use different equipment and use more energy; but the main thing is to make sure your children are moving.
- You can add all sorts of rules and themes and storylines to activities and children may love getting involved in the process and the preparation, but the main aim is to get them moving and keep them moving, for at least an hour every day.
- Without going to the lengths of setting up a complicated game, simply call out commands in quick succession that encourage movement, e.g. ‘crouch down, stand up, turn around, jump up, lie on your tummy, etc.
- Just put some music on and get them moving. Even if all they are doing is just marching or jumping on the spot, the fact that there is a repetitive beat and engaging melodies should encourage them to be active.
Getting children to try a new activity is one thing, getting them to repeat it over time is something else. In addition to making it fun and a challenge, it can be very motivating to associate exercise with a reward.
The benefits listed in Make it happen above are a reward in themselves, however here are some ideas for making the association more immediate:
- Set up a family chart that logs how many times a day/week that an activity has been performed and choose a reward for when it’s been completed. You can use our reward chart template.
- You can use anything that is suitable as a reward such as a sticker, a daytrip, some credits for a device app, a comic, a toy, a story at bedtime, a homemade certificate, or even just some praise. If you reward them with a snack or drink then its best to use things that have a health benefit such as fruit (otherwise the health benefit of the exercise they’ve just done won’t be so great).
- Give something as a reward that can be used for more active play.
Some ideas: a balloon, a ball, a skipping rope, some bubbles (they can blow the bubbles and then chase around popping them). They will likely want to play with the reward straight away and it will encourage them to go from one 10 minute burst of activity to another thus extending their active time for each session.