Fitness and Your 4- to 5-Year-Old

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Parents

By the time kids are4 and 5 years old, their physicalskills like running, jumping, kicking, and throwing, have come a long way. Now they'llcontinue to refine these skills and build on them to learn more complex ones.

Take advantage of your child's natural tendency to be active. Feeling confident about his or herabilities builds self-esteem, and staying fit decreases the risk of serious illnesses later in life.

Fitness for Preschoolers

The National Association of Sports and Physical Education recommends that every day preschoolers should:

  • get at least 60 minutes of structured physical activity (adult-led activity)
  • get at least 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity (free play)
  • not be inactive for more than 1 hour at a time (unless sleeping)

It's important to understand what preschoolers can handle. They should participate infun and challenging activities that help build skills and coordination but aren't beyond theirabilities.

Kids this age arelearning to hop, skip, and jump forward, and are eager to show off how they can balance on one foot (for 5 seconds or longer), catch a ball, or do a somersault. Preschoolers mightalso enjoy swimming, hiking, dancing, and riding a tricycle or bicycle with training wheels.

Many parents look to organized sports to get preschoolers active. But the average 4- or 5-year-old has not mastered even the basics, such as throwing, catching, and taking turns. Even simple rules may be hard for them to understand, as any parent who has watched their child run the wrong way during a game knows.

And starting too young can be frustrating for kids and may discourage future participation in sports. So if you decide to sign your preschooler up for soccer or another team sport, be sure to choose a peewee league that emphasizes the fundamentals.

No matter what the sport or activity, remember that fitness should be fun. If your child isn't having fun, ask why and try to address the issue or find another activity.

Family Fitness Tips

Walking, playing, running in the backyard, or using playground equipment at a local park can be fun for the entire family.

Other activities to try together,or for a group of preschoolers to enjoy, include:

  • playing games such as "Duck, Duck, Goose" or "Follow the Leader," then mixingit up with jumping, hopping, and walking backward
  • kicking a ball back and forth
  • hitting a ball off a T-ball stand
  • playing freeze dance or freeze tag
  • pretending to be statues to practice balancing

Kids can be active even when they're stuck indoors. Designate a safe play area and try some active inside games:

  • Treasure hunt: Hide "treasures" throughout the house and provide clues to their locations.
  • Obstacle course: Set up an obstacle course with chairs, boxes, and tours for the kids to go over, under, through, and around.
  • Soft-ball games: Use soft foam balls to play indoor basketball, bowling, soccer, or catch. You can even use balloons to play volleyball or catch.

When to Call the Doctor

If your child refuses to play or join other kids in sports or complains of pain after being active, talk with your doctor.

Kids who enjoy sports and exercise tend to stay active throughout their lives. And staying fit can improve self-esteem, help a person maintain a healthy weight, and decrease the risk of serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease later in life.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: May 2011



Related Resources

OrganizationYoung Men's Christian Association (YMCA) YMCAs also offer camps, computer classes, and community service opportunities in addition to fitness classes.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
OrganizationAmerican Council on Exercise (ACE) ACE promotes active, healthy lifestyles by setting certification and education standards for fitness instructors and through ongoing public education about the importance of exercise.


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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

1995-2012 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.



 

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