Supporting Physical Activity in Child Care Centres During COVID-19
Child care providers play an important role in supporting children’s movement behaviours. According to the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years, toddlers (ages 1-2 years) and preschoolers (ages 3-4 years) should participate in at least 180 minutes of activity of various types and intensity per day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented some challenges for child care settings as providers attempt to reduce risks while still maintaining an active and stimulating experience for children. We’ve compiled information and resources to support child care providers with planning safe activities during COVID-19 with a special focus on active outdoor play.
Considerations for Planning Activities During COVID-19
- Plan outdoor activities as much as possible.
- When planning indoor activities, ensure the space allows children to move around safely and be able to maintain physical distancing as much as possible.
- Whether indoors or outdoors, choose activities that allow for physical distancing and that require little or no equipment.
- Do a morning yoga or movement session (check out the FREE videos by Cosmic Kids Yoga, Go Noodle, and The Moblees).
- Practice individual skills on the spot (see these activity ideas: Animal Friends, Balance Poses, Mirror-mirror, and Tightrope).
- Visit Active for Life for more information and resources.
- Use visual cues like tape, pylons, or signs to designate each child’s area and promote physical distancing.
- If equipment is used:
- Limit or avoid sharing equipment between cohorts.
- If equipment is shared between cohorts, ensure that it is properly cleaned and disinfected between cohorts. Ensure equipment can be easily cleaned and disinfected.
- If outdoor play structures are used:
- Allow one cohort on the play structure at a time. Consider creating a schedule for use of the play structures.
- Make sure children perform good hand hygiene before and after using the play structures.
- Remind children to cough and sneeze into a tissue or their elbows.
- Ask children to avoid putting their mouth on the play structures and equipment.
- Encourage children to keep their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth.
The COVID-19 child care guidance document highlights the importance of prioritizing opportunities for time spent outdoors as way to reduce the spread of the virus. Time spent outdoors – especially at play – is good for healthy child development, learning, and the benefits are even greater when it is combined with physical activity (known as active outdoor play).
When children play outdoors, they MOVE MORE, SIT LESS, and PLAY LONGER! That’s because the great outdoors provides endless opportunities for movement and play. The natural environment promotes activities like building a snowman or a fort, or jumping over natural obstacles such as logs, rocks and even puddles. With active outdoor play, the possibilities are endless! All that is needed is a little planning and some creativity.
Tips for Planning Successful Outdoor Activities
- Focus on unstructured play. Let children explore, test their own limits, and improve their abilities through experience.
- Provide ‘loose parts’ such as buckets, digging tools, hula hoops, balls, jump ropes, and more (ensure these items can be easily cleaned and disinfected at the end of the day). Loose parts promote discovery and encourage children to find their own creative movement opportunities.
- Plan structured activities that focus on individual skills and promote physical distancing.
- When introducing outdoor play, start with shorter and more frequent periods and gradually build up to longer periods of outdoor activity.
- Dress for the weather. Rain, snow, and sunshine all present different opportunities for play and can be enjoyed by all when everyone is dressed properly.
- Get parents and caregivers on board with active outdoor play:
- Learn more about how you can support active outdoor play with these resources for educators and childcare providers:
Have a question or need support? Contact your public health nurse or email the Health Unit’s physical activity team at firstname.lastname@example.org.