Be Active in Childcare/Preschool

Children should engage in physical activity every day. Research shows that physical activity can help youth improve their concentration, memory, behavior, and academic performance. The recommendation for children is at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day. This can be broken up into small segments of 5-10 minutes each. Activity-friendly environments also promote positive attitudes toward fitness and other health–enhancing behaviors. Activity can be introduced into existing routines and transitions, into academic lessons, or introduced as an activity break.

Here are a few examples to promote activity in your preschool/childcare setting:


  • Jog quietly in place for 5 minutes; stretch to reach the ceiling and touch your toes, do dance moves to your class theme song; march in place; jump with an invisible jump rope or quietly walk around the classroom.
  • End each day with a few minutes of physical activity.
    • A faculty/staff member could lead students in a physical activity before they leave or as they wait for pick up.
  • Make a daily routine – add a 2 minute activity break between each project or theme.
    • Take a quiet wiggle break
    • Do an internet search for “brain break and youtube” for a list of additional activity break ideas.
    • Work with the students to make up a list of short activities they can do.
    • Assign students to be the activity leaders.
    • Have students select a monthly theme song to dance in place to each month.
    • Role Model Moment – Students love to see you in action! Teachers should participate in the activity breaks with the students.
  • Create a “healthy behaviors” section on the bulletin board. Write your healthy behaviors along with the students to continue to motivate each other to make the healthy behavior changes you discuss in class.
  • Have the class create a physical activity route through the center stopping at different sites and performing a variety of small movements at each location. When they pass the administrators office, they can bow and wave; at the kitchen, they can mop the floor, etc.
  • Have students graph a chart showing their daily walking progress as a class and share with other classes in the school.
  • Offer non-food incentives for achieving activity goals. 

In the Room

Movement as part of an interactive lesson can increase academic performance. Movement is different from vigorous physical activity. Students need both to be healthy and productive.

You may ask students to change seats, sit in a circle or stand up and stretch. Some ways to integrate movement as part of lesson content include: role playing, short games to reinforce concepts, stretching, playing music and having walking worksheets to move to different stations in the classroom.

  • Integrate actions/movements into lessons
    • Add activities during classroom instruction. For example, when using Read for Health and reading Up, Down and All Around, have the children pretend they are parts of the plant and move as the plant grows.
    • While reading aloud, whenever the word “fruit” is mentioned, have children stand and stretch. Make a short list of motions for other words that are repeated in the book. Iowa developed some stories with motions.
    • Using the ReFresh curriculum, using the “Water for Healthy Bodies” February lesson, students can add movement to the lesson by having them role play as a seed – once watered to slowly stretch into a blooming flower.

Screen Free

Preschools and childcare centers are encouraged to create an awareness of and participate in screen free week. Provide families with tips to add movement and physical activity at home in place of watching or using screens.

Free Play

Outside Free Play or physical activity breaks offer an excellent opportunity for youth at all age levels to engage in free play or semi-structured physical activity during the day. You may want to suggest your school/center add an extra playtime and/or longer. Allow students to play before lunch.

Provide age-appropriate equipment for students, have adults encourage students to be physically active, and providing semi-structured activity that involves activity stations (e.g., jump rope, four square, and hopscotch stations).

  • Healthy Hopping – Ideas using a jump rope.
  • Can’t get outside? Click here.
  • Do not withhold free play as a punishment. There are alternatives such as “peaceful playgrounds.”

For even more resources and ideas for fitting physical activity into preschool or daycare center, click here.