Moving & Learning: Unstructured Physical Activity

Today’s blog is from Brooke Rains, Coordinator for Child Care Network in Lenawee, Jackson and Hillsdale Counties. Brooke is a wife, dog mom, beach lover, education graduate of Adrian College, and an Adrian resident. She is excited to blog for us about her role as a national trainer for I Am Moving, I Am Learning, a proactive program for addressing childhood obesity in preschool-age children.

Parents and Families: Opportunity is knocking!  You can help the young children in your life have fun moving their bodies!  You can be an “informed play partner.”  What’s that, you say?  Ah yes, read on…

To be an informed play partner, you need to be informed about something, right?  Well, let me inform you about the guidelines for physical activity according to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE).  Children age 3-5 years should have 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity and 60 minutes of structured physical activity on a DAILY BASIS.  “What??” you say, “120 minutes a day?!  I don’t even sleep for 120 minutes a day!”  Calm down.  This is where I come in.

First of all, channel your inner optimist. You CAN help! This is an opportunity, remember? It’s a great idea to help kids to be more active! Got it? Ok, good.image from

Second of all, take baby steps.  Let’s start with the unstructured physical activity part (we’ll tackle the structured side next time).  Keep in mind that these 60 minutes of activity are accumulated over the course of the child’s WHOLE DAY.  So, that includes time at child care or preschool, time at their friend’s house, time at Grandma’s house, time with you, etc.  And unstructured activity simply means that there is a period of time, or several smaller periods of time, where kids get to… just… PLAY (a.k.a. run around and be little hyper people).  And you let them!  Let them (safely of course) run, jump, climb, twist and shout, leap, roll, dance, hop, swing, and so on and so forth, however they choose to move.  Allow it and encourage it.  So, where can you make time for this in your busy schedule?  Well, the I Am Moving, I Am Learning strategy is all about incorporating movement into what you already do in your daily routine:

  • Do you have to get dinner ready?  Turn on some music and encourage the kids to dance around while they wait.
  • Watching your favorite TV show together?  Use the commercials as a time for jumping, rolling, or leaping.
  • Long wait at the Secretary of State?  Grab your number and your child’s hand and take a walk (or hop or run) around the building together.  (Watch for cars!)
  • Going to Grandma’s house for the afternoon?  Meet her at the park instead.  (Need to find a park?  Go to and click on “fun things to do” or direct link:

Lastly, be their partner and motivator in this free, unbridled, active play time.  Tell them what you notice about their movements: “Wow, look at you jumping!” “That was a bigger leap than last time!” “Look how far we walked together!”  This can help to remind them of the JOY in moving their bodies.

So give it a try and watch the minutes add up!  You’ll be at 60 before you know it.


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