Fun Fitness for Preschoolers

Playing can keep preschoolers in tip-top shape.

Ages 2 to 3

It's never too young to get into fitness, and teaching your child to stay fit can help him have a longer and healthier life. Physical play also helps him to learn about himself and the world around him. The American Medical Association says that developing the habit of fitness at a young age promotes healthful behaviors, improves self-esteem, and decreases the risk of serious illnesses later in life. Choosing games that you can play with your child (such as catch or hide and seek) can be a bonding experience for both of you.

Encouraging physical play for your 2- to 3-year-old can help him develop creativity, physical fitness, strength, coordination, and motor skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that these skills are best learned in an unstructured and noncompetitive setting where a child can experiment and learn by trial and error. This sort of free play can involve anything from running circles around the backyard to drawing shapes in the sand.

Even though kids this age aren't ready for highly structured activities (such as sports or ballet classes), try getting them involved in organized play groups such as Gymboree, Mommy and Me, or toddler music sessions.

Suggested activities

  • Running
  • Walking
  • Swinging
  • Climbing
  • Playing in a sandbox
  • Playground activities
  • Carefully supervised water play

Ages 4 to 6

Once your child is around 5 years of age, he may be ready to participate in organized games or exercise sessions. But remember that the goals should be fitness and fun, not discipline or competition. The AAP recommends that each parent decide when their particular child is ready for organized sports, adding that kids usually aren't ready before the age of 6. Pressuring them before they're ready can lead to a negative attitude toward sports and fitness.

If you enroll your child in exercise classes, make sure the sessions are short and emphasize playfulness, experimentation, and movement, suggests the AAP. While fun and fitness are important, make sure you don't overschedule your child's time. It's best to commit him to no more than two regular activities.

Suggested activities

  • Catch
  • Hopscotch
  • Bike riding (with training wheels)
  • Jump rope
  • Whiffle ball
  • Tag
  • Swimming
  • Dance
  • Gymnastics

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's health.

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