3 min read

Did you know that only 62% of preschool children in Canada (ages 3-5) get the recommended amount of daily physical activity? According to the 2018 Report Card of Physical Activity for Children and Youth, Canadian children rank “poorly” in their daily movement behaviours, which include a balance between active play, active transportation, and sedentary behaviours.

Physical activity for both children and adults is essential in promoting a healthy heart, body weight, and brain development. The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend that preschoolers ages 3-5 yrs, get 180 minutes (3 hours) of physical activity per day and that 60 of those minutes should be “energetic play” (heart pumping – running, dancing, hopping etc.).

And we can’t forget ourselves! Adults 18-64 yrs need at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (activities that get the heart pumping!) per week. As role models for children, leading an active lifestyle teaches our kids that movement is important for both physical and mental health, – and can be a fun and social way to spend time!

If children spend two-thirds of their day in child care, then at least 120 minutes (of their 180 minutes per day) should be physically active. The CHEERS program supports early childhood educators to assess the amount of movement children are receiving within their child care centre, to help identify how movement-friendly their classrooms are.

Joan, an early childhood educator and CHEERS Champion, noted that it was a “big eye-opener” for her to learn that the children in her child care centre were receiving a below-average amount of movement throughout their day. This discovery allowed for some meaningful brainstorming and discussion for her centre’s team.

Her team came up with two ideas! The first thing they realized was that there was a lost opportunity for movement during transition times, especially when preparing to go outdoors. They decided as a team to commit to streamlining and quickening the process of getting children ready, in order to maximize their movement time outside. Second, they noticed that many of the indoor activities within their child care centre required children to be sitting down. The team decided to incorporate more “body breaks” into classroom activities to increase movement and to also help reset the children’s focus.

Reflecting on the importance of physical activity and the powerful role that child care centres can play in improving the health of children, motivated Joan and her team to reassess and improve activities to increase movement time. As Joan stated, “We took [the CHEERS assessment] to heart and are continuously working to increase movement in our classrooms.” This dedication sets children up for success in meeting their recommended 24-hour movement guidelines and introduces them to a love for physical activity early in their development.

To find out more about The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines and the 2018 Report Card of Physical Activity for Children and Youth please use the attached links.