Resources for Physical Activity

Learn creative ways to get children moving several times a day with these physical activity resources.

Administrative Resources

Active Early: A Wisconsin guide for improving childhood physical activity. Includes information on physical activity recommendations, child development, assessments, daily routines, environmental considerations, resources and business practices.

Best Practices for Physical Activity: Nemours Health and Prevention Services (NHPS) created these physical activity guidelines to help promote and support quality physical activity for children. The guide also includes sample child care and early education program policies.

Freedom of Movement Checklist: The Freedom of Movement Checklist was developed by the Capital District of Child Care Council in Albany, New York. This tool was created for infant toddler caregivers, coaches, trainers, administrators, and families and is used to assess how programming supports each child’s freedom of movement throughout the day.

On the Move: Read about how powerful movement is in a child’s first three years. Through movement, children develop good thinking and communication skills as they explore and interact with their world. Movement also builds self-confidence. Children feel competent, physically and emotionally, when they use their bodies to communicate and solve problems.

Physical Activity Kit for Young Children (PAK) — Staying on the Active Path in Native Communities
(PDF): This vast resource for child care providers and parents contains culturally appropriate physical activities and movements for babies, toddlers and preschool children in Native American communities.

Preventing Childhood Obesity: A letter to families about their role in keeping kids healthy and actions they can take to prevent childhood obesity.

Taking Steps to Healthy Success—Active Play: This resource includes off-the-shelf curricula and toolkits, videos, best practices, resources for families, information, and methods to implement active play strategies. You may want to save an electronic copy of this handout (since it includes hyperlinks for resources) for future reference or to pass on to co-workers or families.

Articles and Research

Adapting the Child Care Environment for Children with Special Needs: When working with special needs children, it is important to focus on each child’s strength as you work to make adjustments. Many modifications can be simple ones. This article covers making adaptations, general accommodations, and additional resources for specific disabilities.

Does objectively measured physical activity modify the association between early weight gain and fat mass in young adulthood? Evidence suggests that weight gain in early life is associated with increased obesity later in life. This study examines whether physical activity at age 30 modifies associations between weight gain in childhood with fat mass index measured at age 30.

Early Childhood Sedentary Behavior Associated with Worse Working Memory: Research suggests that promoting physical activity in early life may increase the cognitive potential of children. Sedentary behavior may be related to later, decreased working memory.

Ideas for Child Care Providers to Help Children with Physical Disabilities: This article describes how child care and early education providers can support children who have physical disabilities, such as: helping them be more independent, making it easy to move around in play areas, adapting activities, and teaching children how to help another child with a physical disability.

The Importance of Health Behaviors in Childhood for the Development of Internalizing Disorders During Adolescence: Approximately half of all cases of poor mental health have an onset before the age of 14 years. This study examines the importance of diet quality, physical activity and sedentary behaviors in childhood for internalizing disorder throughout adolescence.

Interventions to Reduce Sedentary Behavior in 0–5-Year-Olds: Interventions to reduce sedentary behavior in early childhood show significant results, suggesting that early childhood may be an opportune time to intervene.

Keeping Children Active Indoors: Children need to have active times every day to use up energy, learn new things and be healthy. Luckily, active play can happen indoors as well as outdoors. Try the indoor activities in this article to get your kids to use large muscles and burn energy.

Physical Activity: Family-Based Interventions: Family-based interventions combine activities to build family support with health education to increase physical activity among children. Read this review from the Community Preventive Services Task Force to find out how a family-based intervention would work in your program.

Study Links Adversity in Early Life to Childhood Obesity: Children who have experienced stressful or traumatic events are more likely to be overweight or obese, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Minnesota. The study also found that the greater the number of adverse experiences in children’s lives, the stronger the likelihood they will be overweight or obese.

Temperament is Associated with Free Play in Young Children: Outdoor free play is important for preschoolers’ physical activity, health and development. This study examines whether there is an association between temperament and outdoor play in young children. Consideration of temperament could enhance strategies to increase outdoor play in young children.

Curricula and Lesson Plans

Choosy Kids: Choosy Kids is devoted to promoting health in young children and their families. It was founded on the belief that healthy preferences for food and beverage choices, physical activity, and daily health routines can be developed early in life. Parents, early educators, and health care providers all can help young children develop and keep healthy habits.

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness (Dept. of Defense, Penn State): Search for physical activity programs that may be used in early care and education settings. Each program included in the Clearinghouse includes a summary of the program, description of the evidence, components of the program, where it has been used, training needed, considerations, implementation factors (i.e. time cost, evaluation plan), and contact information.

Developmentally-Appropriate Physical Activity Ideas: Infants should be encouraged to move as much as possible. Toddlers use walking to energetically explore the world around them. Preschoolers are mastering skills such as running, jumping and throwing. This resource from the West Virginia Department of Education provides ideas to support movement in the child care environment.

Diane Craft Active Play Book: Looking for a way to integrate physical activities with learning? The physical activities in the Active Play Book are created for toddlers and preschoolers to play together, easy to lead and fun to do, inexpensive, using readily available equipment, designed for children to develop fundamental movement skills, and are inclusive of children with special needs.

PE Central — Physical Education Lesson Plans: PE Central is a vast resource for not only PE teachers but any educator seeking to incorporate more movement in his or her classroom. Includes a database of lesson plans, best practices, professional development, recommended equipment, student assessments, a video library, information on grants and much more.

Equity in Physical Activity

Including All Children (Action for Healthy Kids): Children with special needs are often overlooked or systematically excluded when school physical activities are planned and implemented. This exclusion is likely due to the lack of understanding of the abilities of the student(s) or/and fear of potential injury. This resource explains what the barriers to participation may be for children with special needs, categories of special needs, a five-step plan for promoting physical activity for children with special needs, and ways to adjust physical activities to include children with special needs.

Physical Activity Opportunities in School, Afterschool, and Early Care and Education (Center of Disease Control and Prevention): Opportunities for physical activity for children outside of school are limited in many underserved communities. Many institutions have limited resources to implement physical activity programming. Needs differ among children of all abilities. This resource highlights physical activity strategies, opportunities, and partnerships that advance health equity.

Promoting Equity in Physical Activity: An Evidence Summary (VicHealth): This evidence summary is intended to provide policy makers with practical, evidence-based guidance on promoting equity in physical activity. This resource focuses on approaches that have significant potential to address physical activity and sedentary behavior-related inequities if designed and targeted appropriately. This summary also highlights best practices and priorities for action that cuts across socioeconomic, political and cultural context; daily living conditions; and individual health-related factors.

Promoting Physical Activity Among Low-Income Children in Colorado: Family Perspectives on Barriers and Opportunities (Mathematica): Most parents understand and value the benefits of regular physical activity for their children’s health and well-being. However in this study, parents identified a wide range of challenges that prevent their child from being more physically active. Despite these challenges, many parents continue to try hard to identify opportunities for physical activity and had a wide range of recommendations for how communities could support their efforts.

First Aid and Safety

First Aid: Dehydration: Kids can become dehydrated when their bodies lose large amounts of fluids. In this article from Nemours’ KidsHealth, learn the signs and symptoms of dehydration, what to do in case of dehydration, when to seek emergency medical care, and how to prevent it.

First Aid: Heat Illness: In hot weather, a child’s internal temperature can rise and cause heat exhaustion, which can progress to heatstroke if not treated quickly. In this article from Nemours’ KidsHealth, learn the signs and symptoms of heat illness, and what to do in case of heat illness.

Playground Safety: Following these safety guidelines from Nemours’ KidsHealth can make playgrounds entertaining and safe for your kids. Topics include: adult supervision; playground design, spacing and surfaces; maintenance and inspection; teaching kids about playground safety; safe equipment guidelines for swings, seesaws, slides and climbing equipment.

Outdoor Activities and Play Spaces

The Alabama Outdoor Classroom: Provides free technical and organizational assistance for schools who wish to create a sustainable outdoor classroom site to be used as an effective educational tool for hands-on, outdoor learning opportunities.

Environmental Education Alliance (EEA) of Georgia: EEA has an Outdoor Learning Guide that provides information on how to make your own Outdoor Learning area and much more.

Gayle’s Preschool Rainbow: This site provides suggestions for outdoor preschool activities. Develop early childhood education lesson plans to encourage gross motor and observation skills of young children. Outdoor activities give preschool children an opportunity to be a little louder and move in a larger space. Throughout the year capitalize on your extra classroom and have fun.

A Guide to Creating Active Outdoor Play Spaces (from Move More North Carolina): This guide provides recommendations for designing playgrounds and other outdoor play spaces for preschoolers and their caregivers.

Head Start Body Start Play Assessment (from SHAPE America) Assess the quality of outdoor play spaces for children ages 3-5.

How Learning to Put on Rain Boots Leads to Academic Success: Foundational skills in the preschool years include developing large and fine motor skills, developing self-regulation, learning to follow directions, and learning how to think through problems. Teaching a child to put on his own outdoor gear encompasses all of these.

Nature Explore: Nature Explore offers: outdoor classroom design services to help create nurturing, nature-based outdoor spaces; workshops and conferences to share effective, inspiring ideas for enhancing children’s learning with nature; natural products for outdoor classrooms and field-tested components which support children’s interests and creativity; and family resources to inspire nature connections at home.

Nature Play Queensland: Nature Play Queensland was founded on the understanding that unstructured play outdoors is fundamental to a full and healthy childhood. Nature and outdoor play promotes health benefits. The site contains free outdoor learning and nature play lesson plans for children in early years, kindergarten, and school age.

Nature Playdates — An Alternative for When Nature Preschool Isn’t an Option: What happens when you want to offer early childhood nature programming but don’t have the space, personnel, logistical, or monetary support to run a full-scale preschool? One answer may lie in short-form programming such as nature playdates.

Nursery Sources: The Woodland Trust produces a range of free resources and downloads available for early child and education settings for outdoor learning activities, split by age groups.

Outdoor Classroom Day: Outdoor Classroom Day aims to get as many children as possible playing and learning outside. Whether you’re looking for outdoor lesson plan ideas, resources to encourage others to get involved, or guidance on making outdoor learning and play part of every day, you’ll find it here.

The Outdoor Environment—Designing For Learning: Outdoor learning environments offer preschoolers opportunities to explore and learn. This lesson from Virtual Lab School focuses on designing safe outdoor spaces to promote learning, engagement and active play.

Plant a Seed and See What Grows : Looking for outdoor educational learning resources? Plant a Seed and See What Grows Foundation’s website has unwavering support of outdoor education and ways you can embed outdoor practices into your program.

Project Learning Tree: Project Learning Tree (PLT) provides a wealth of up-to-date resources, support, and ideas for teachers and other educators. They also offer grants to schools and youth organizations for service-learning projects. Plus, PLT’s extraordinary network of State Coordinators and certified workshop facilitators provide local assistance and community connections.

Training and Webinars

Creating Active Classrooms: These materials were created to support teachers of 2-5 year olds in early care and education (ECE) centers to increase the amount of physical activity in their classrooms. They can also be used by those who provide training and technical assistance to ECE teachers. The resources are designed to build short, easy-to-use activities into your daily child care routine. The resources include: 1) Training Workshop Slides, 2) Lesson Plans, and 3) Activity Cards. The training workshop slides can be used separately from or together with the lesson plans and activity cards.

» Creating Active Classrooms Training Workshop Slides

» Training Workshop Presentation Notes

» Guide to Lessons and Activity Cards

Healthy Kids, Healthy Future—Get Kids Moving Learning Module: This learning module from PennState and Better Kid Care will help ECE providers identify the benefits of physical activity, understand best practices for physical activity, develop strategies and ideas to keep kids active, and find out about physical activity resources.

One Step at a Time: Bright Futures Obesity Prevention Training for Child Care Providers: This training includes three modules: Promoting Physical Activity for Young Children, Promoting Physical Activity in Child Care Programs, and Working with Parents.