Active children

Key points about active children

  • Both children and adults need to be physically active and eat healthily to live well.
  • Parents, family/whānau and caregivers, check out the tips and videos below and discover more about how to make sure your children exercise right so they can grow well.
children hiking in New Zealand bush Canva
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Get active daily

Daily physical exercise will keep your child healthy. Children should do a minimum of an hour of mild to intense physical activity every day. Try for plenty of mild exercises and some intense physical activities. This will help them to:

  • Grow healthy, strong bones, muscles, and joints.
  • Increase flexibility and balance.
  • Grow and sustain healthy lungs and heart.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Make friends and enjoy themselves.
  • Develop good self-esteem.

Mild exercise

Children will be breathing more quickly and their heart rates will be a little bit faster. A good indicator of a mild level of exercise would be that your child can still talk with you whilst exercising. Try these suggestions:

  • walking the dog
  • bike ride in the park
  • swimming in the pool
  • playing on the playground
  • dancing
  • Kapa haka
  • surfing, bodyboarding, or skim boarding at the beach
  • skateboarding.

Harder exercise

Children will be puffed and their heart rates will be faster than during mild exercise (above).

A good indicator of a hard level of exercise would be that your child will only be able to say a couple of words to you and then will need to take a breath. Try these suggestions:

  • running games such as bull rush or tag
  • hiking
  • swimming laps at the pool
  • soccer, rugby
  • playing touch rugby with friends, family/whanau
  • Waka ama.

Encourage physical exercise

  • Provide chances for your children to be physically active every day, with play, cultural events, dance, sports, creative games around the house, household chores, and when travelling (e.g. riding a bike to school, walking to a friends, scooting or skateboarding to the dairy).
  • Try a range of activities to discover the ones that your child likes most. Encourage your child in every activity and offer positive feedback.
  • Engage in physical activity as a family and let every family member have a turn in choosing an activity to try.

Turn technology off

Try to limit your child's ʻscreen timeʼ (TV, mobile phone, video games, movies) to under 2 hours a day. Try to inspire children to be active in a range of ways and as much as possible.

Be a role model

Your children look up to you, if you're physically active every day, this will most likely rub off on your children and make them more active too.

If you're ever unsure – consult your:

  • GP, practice nurse, public health nurse.
  • Nearest District Health Board and request a dietitian or Public Health Service.
  • Māori/Pacifica health workers and/or marae-based health services.

Video: Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well: Mokomoko

This video is based on He Pī Ka Rere, Toi Tanagata’s under-fives movement programme run through kohanga reo. He Pī Ka Rere uses the traditional movements of pūngāwerewere (spiders) and mokomoko (lizards) to inspire tamariki to be active. This video may take a few moments to load.

(Ministry of Health, NZ, 2018)

Video: HANDS UP | 1 - Introduction to Physical & Health Literacy

This video may take a few moments to load.

(Ophea, Canada, 2013)

Video: HANDS UP | 2- Exploring Physical & Health Literacy

This video may take a few moments to load.

(Ophea, Canada, 2013)

Video: HANDS UP | 3 - Applying Physical & Health Literacy

This video may take a few moments to load.

(Ophea, Canada, 2013)

Physical activities for under 5's(external link) KidsHealth
Activities for children and young people(external link) HealthEd, NZ, 2021
Games for kids(external link) Health Promotion Agency
Developing fundamental movement skills for children(external link) Sport NZ
Play, sport and physical activity for young people(external link) Sport NZ
Activity and Nutrition Aotearoa(external link) 
Supporting Physical Development in Early Childhood(external link) Future Learn. Fee applies. The course is designed for adults involved in caring for or educating babies and young children.



  1. Food and nutrition guidelines for healthy children and young people (aged 2–18 years)  a background paper.(external link) Ministry of Health NZ, partially revised 2015
  2. Active movement activity guides for children 0-5 years(external link) Sport NZ, 2015

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