We’re wide awake!

Children are designed to move. As a parent you will know that children are either “on” or “off”. Their internal switch flicks to “on” as soon as they awake! Often they are so interested in the world that they fight to remain “on” even when they should be resting.

Children need to be involved in active play. Government guidelines recommend that young children should have at least a total of 180 minutes of physical activity throughout the day.

Top Tips

  • “Tummy time” is good to develop baby’s muscles
  • Minimise the time babies have to be in restrictive carriers/buggies
  • Maximise opportunities for children to walk, run, climb
  • Avoid purchasing self-propelled ride on toys/ cars in favour of bikes, scooters
  • Minimise TV/ screen time
  • Leave the car at home whenever you can – it will help maintain your wellbeing too!

The Benefits of Movement

Physical exercise gets the heart pumping and has the obvious benefits of building strong muscles, bones, stamina and general fitness. Were you also aware that movement is crucial to brain development too?

The brain is the operating system for all parts of the body, so it makes sense that movement and brain development are connected.

Wiring the Brain

The term “The Wonder Years” has often been used to describe early childhood.   More development takes place during these early years than at any other time of life.  During this time connections are formed between the different areas of the brain which help a child to function independently.  Physical activity enables oxygen rich blood to better reach all parts of the brain and complete those connections.

There are certain sensitive times when particular senses develop at a fast pace.  Neural pathways can develop quickly like a cobweb, but from around age seven, those pathways not used, begin to be pruned off.  It is a bit like going through a grassy field running here and there; eventually you find your favourite routes and use those to get you where you want to go, the grass then grows back over the unused paths.  It really is “use it or lose it”.

Children deprived of certain experiences at key stages can find it hard to catch up. Studies have been done on children who grew up in poorly staffed orphanages. Some were kept for long periods in cots or high chairs and not enabled to move around; sometimes thought to be for their own safety.  However, as these children got older, it was evident that they continued to struggle with many simple tasks and did not make the progress expected.  For this reason, children should not normally be restrained in buggies or chairs for long periods of more than an hour. 

Babies need to workout too

Before they can even walk, babies need opportunities to move. Take any opportunity to lie your baby comfortably on the floor, on a blanket, with space around them. Wriggling, kicking, stretching, rolling and grasping is their workout! These actions promote muscle function and strength. The brain connections made from these small, reflexive movements, helps to co-ordinate future more complex actions. From this they go on to crawl, pull up to stand and eventually walk. When they accomplish walking, their world experiences become greater, more interesting and very much more stimulating. 

“Tummy time” is a very helpful start for babies.   They may find it strange and uncomfortable when they are first placed on their tummy but from that position they can push up, begin to stretch, reach and grasp when objects are placed a short way away from them.  (Remember: this position is for babies who are awake, when asleep, children should be placed on their back).


As children get more mobile it is good to recognise that they need to explore and practice their new found skills. Give them opportunities to walk, run and climb and to stand at activities rather than sit.  Sedentary pursuits such as TV watching, screen time and sitting with no purpose can lead to an excess of unspent energy. This not only affects health and fitness but can lead to behaviour issues too.

Get children out and about

At nursery children are ever active in a very child centred environment.  The adult world and sometimes the home are not always easy places for children to get the level of movement they have been used to on nursery days.  At weekends it is important to find opportunities to walk and get children out into the garden or the park. Even walking around the supermarket and doing housework is exercise, so find ways of building physical activity with children into the normal tasks you have to achieve at the weekend.

The mantra “there is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing” is true; children enjoy the experiences of being out on a windy day or splashing in the puddles in the rain. When they are physically tired, they are happier to curl up with you on the sofa with a book. It will also be easier to find their “off switch” and will be more likely to settle when they need to go to bed.

If we put our minds and bodies into this with our children, the whole family will benefit!

For more information and activities:




Activities for kids – Healthier Families – NHS (www.nhs.uk)




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