Family Tips: Promoting Physical Activity at Home

Promoting physical activity in the home, and while with family, is extremely important in creating a positive physical activity environment for your infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Many of the games and activities your child plays in their daycare or preschool can easily be adapted for home play, so be sure to ask your child about the games they have played at preschool. Asking your child’s early years provider for a copy of some of the games is also a great way to extend play into the home. 

A little flexibility with equipment and space is all it takes to adapt some games for home. Try taking a game outside, involving siblings or neighbours, or creating stories to extend a game. If you do not have the equipment the game calls for, perhaps you can create some together, or invent a game with the equipment you do have. 

Here are six active game suggestions designed to fit the space and equipment you might have available at home. 

Homemade Race Track

This game can easily be modified to meet your child’s interests. For example, it can be a NASCAR race, a jungle parade or a fashion runway. 

Physical activity links 

Muscular control, motor planning, spatial awareness, co-operation, focusing, physical endurance, running skills, locomotion patterns, physical fitness

Language/literacy links 

Listening skills, pretending, vocabulary

Equipment 

  • Pillows 
  • Mats (from the bathroom, bedroom, door) 
  • Comforters/blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Towels

Where 

Outdoors (with different equipment, such as baseball bats, hockey sticks, or sand castle moulds) or indoors 

Let’s play 

  1. Set equipment on the floor to create a racetrack. Equipment should border each side of the track, so that children are moving on the floor of the home (pillows are the grass lining the race car track, or the pebbles on the sides of the dirt road).
  2. Explain that children must stay on the track at all times. If you wish, touching the equipment can lead to a restart, having to do a silly task, or can simply serve as a reminder of the task for children.
  3. Children run around the track doing various activities.

Example tasks:

  • Children do three laps running
  • Children do three laps jumping, hopping, or skipping
  • Crabwalk, bear walk, skipping, skating, hopping on one leg, driving a car

Try this way

  • Vary the design and complexity of the track to match your home and child. Try tighter corners, snake-like designs or long straight stretches.
  • Running is not required. Hopping, bear walking, crab crawling or pretending to be an airplane are all great choices. 
  • Having a starting or finishing point is optional. The course can be a loop and laps can be counted.
  • If playing with more than one child, have them start at various points of the track.
  • Play music to match the tempo or theme of the activity. With some space music, you can be asteroids in the solar system, or with some dance music, you can be fashion models.

Adapted from Healthy Beginnings 2-5.

ColoUred Flashlights

This game is great for chilly or rainy days.

Physical activity links 

Muscular control, motor planning, sensory awareness, coordination, visual feedback, motor movement recognition

Language/literacy links 

Vocabulary, predicting

Equipment 

One flashlight per player (some flashlights can have colored cellophane or tissue paper over the end to make the light a different color)

Where

Indoors, with the lights turned off and windows covered

Let’s play

Get children to shine their flashlights on the roof and walls. Encourage them to recognize which beam of light belongs to which person.

Various activities can follow:

  • Play flashlight chase or tag, with one light chasing the other.
  • Shine flashlight on the wall and get kids to touch it, or on the floor and get them to jump on it. Move as quickly as your child can keep up.
  • Try to keep the beams of light together as you both move. Change pace and direction to match how your child can keep up.

Try this way

  • Give each participant more than one flashlight.
  • Use the walls, floor and roof.
  • Challenge children to keep their flashlight pointed at the floor/walls/roof while moving through different locomotion patterns, such as bear walking or crawling.

Adapted from Healthy Beginnings 2-5.

Ring the Bell

This activity can help to motivate kids who aren’t as enthusiastic about physical activity to participate as they help to design and create the equipment.

Physical activity links 

Hand-eye coordination, visual skills, proprioceptive skills, muscular control, goal achievement, motor planning, spatial awareness, visual tracking, overhand and underhand throwing

Language/literacy links 

Goal setting, predicting

Equipment 

  • Large cardboard cutout with small bells tied to strings hanging off the bottom.  This cutout can be themed, shaped, and colored by children. 
  • At least one projectile (ball, stuffed animal, scarf) per child

Where 

Outdoors or indoors

Let’s play

  1. Create cardboard cutout. Attach bells to strings and hang from bottom.
  2. Adult holds cutout appropriate distance from child.
  3. Child tries to ‘ring the bell’ by throwing projectile to hit the bells.

Try this way

  • Vary types of projectile – teddy bears fly differently than tennis balls. Allow children to pick and discuss which works better.
  • Add cutout windows with bells within the shape to increase difficulty.
  • Vary the distance between the child and the bells.

Adapted from Healthy Beginnings 2-5.

Touch That

Touch That is a great back-pocket game for parents, as it involves no equipment. 

Physical activity links 

Muscular control, motor planning, spatial awareness

Language/literacy links 

Listening skills, co-operation, color identification, body part knowledge

Equipment 

  • None. Best played in a room where touching the surroundings is allowed. 

Where 

Outdoors or indoors

Let’s play

  1. Parents call out  “Touch something (name a colour)!”
  2. When this is called out, children have to locate this color around the room (or designated outdoor space) and touch it with their finger. They will then freeze until a new color is called. 
  3. Once all children have touched the color and have frozen while touching the color, a new color will be announced.

Try this way

  • Increase the difficulty by getting the children to touch a certain color with a certain body part (e.g. touch something yellow with your knee).
  • The game can also be made more difficult by asking children to touch a colour that is a specific shape (e.g.  ”Touch an orange square”).
  • Different locomotion patterns can also be used, such as “Everybody crawl and touch something brown.”
  • Adapt this game to the seasons. For example, “touch a pumpkin” or “touch a green leaf.”
  • To create challenge, have your child balance in different poses between touching objects.

Adapted from Healthy Beginnings 2-5.

Kite Flying

This activity incorporates creating kites, which can extend the duration and learning potential of the activity. See Lets Make Crafts for Physical Activity section of this manual for instructions on how to make kite with everyday household supplies. 

Physical activity links 

Muscular control, motor planning, spatial awareness, kinesthetic awareness

Language/literacy links 

Learning about gravity and wind, trial and error, predicting

Equipment 

Homemade kites

Where 

Outdoors

Let’s play

  1. After the kites are built, try and fly them. Running starts are important

Try this way

  • How seriously you approach kite building is up to you. Letting children freely create anything they want to try as a kite provides a valuable learning opportunity, and they will run around a lot trying to get it into the air.
  • Try creating more than one kite, or modifying the kite.
  • Try different ways of launching the kite, such as running really fast or running up a hill.

Adapted from Healthy Beginnings 2-5.

Herding Sheep

This game is best played on a hardwood floor or around a kitchen table. Carpet is less effective.

Physical activity links  

Muscular control, motor planning, spatial awareness, oral motor skills

Language/literacy links 

Predicting, co-operation

Equipment

  • Five to 10 cotton balls per participant
  • Paper bags (or small plastic containers)
  • Sticky tack or tape

Where

Indoors

Let’s play

  • Sticky tack or tape one to three paper bags per child at the edges of the table or floor. If using plastic containers, tip them on their sides in the same places. Spread cotton balls around the table or floor.
  • Children must blow cotton balls into the paper bags (and herd their sheep into the pens). Explain that the sheep cannot be touched, only blown.
  • If playing on the floor, children can crawl on their bellies or squat. Encourage them to experiment with the best positions to blow from.

Try this way

  • Adding more or less cotton balls or paper bags changes the difficulty.
  • Playing this game on the floor increases the physical activity demands.
  • Adding a straw to blow through changes the complexity of the game, but should not be used if playing on the floor, as it is dangerous.

Adapted from Healthy Beginnings 2-5.