Keep children active in winter by hosting a “Mini Games Day” at your early learning centre to coincide with the Commonwealth Games and Youth Olympics.

Establishing healthy lifestyle habits at an early age is essential. What better time to encourage children to become active, healthy and fit than during two international sporting and cultural festivals. Scheduling fun and positive active play experiences that include sport, games, dance and movement is the first step to encouraging children to make healthier lifestyle choices into the future as they “take increasing responsibility for their own health and physical wellbeing” (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 32).

Encouraging children to engage in active play from a young age, particularly in the crucial developmental years of two to six years of age, teaches them fundamental skills that are vital for their learning and development. Children as young as two can learn to hit, catch, throw, pass, shoot, kick, step, run, and jump.

Active play not only develops a child’s physical abilities, it enhances their cognitive, social and emotional development. “Physical activity and attention to fine and gross motor skills provide children with the foundations for their growing independence and satisfaction in being able to do things for themselves,” (The Early Years Learning Framework p.31).

Physical wellbeing contributes to a child’s cognitive development as it enhances children’s ability to concentrate, cooperate and learn” (Early Years Learning Framework p.31). Participating in active play has many emotional developmental benefits including raising a child’s self-esteem, and increasing their confidence and independence. Socially, active play enhances a child’s ability to enjoy the company of new friends and interact with adults. It teaches them to share and develops an understanding of sportsmanship, fairness and team work.

Suggested Commonwealth and Olympic inspired games for your early learning centre

Athletics – Track and Field events

Hopping sack race: Instead of the traditional running race hold a hopping sack race for the athletic track component of your games. The race can be run as an individual or team event. Children step inside their sack and jump their way to a marker or chalk “finish line”. For a “team” event tag your partner to hop the return leg. The classic sack race is ideal for developing a range of motor skills, including strength, balance and co-ordination.

Bean bag toss: A variation of the athletic field event shot put. The bean bag toss requires children to throw a bag through one of the holes on a coloured and/or numbered wooden panel or into a hula hoop set out in front of them. This activity provides children with kinaesthetic learning opportunities, as it introduces early maths skills, such as number recognition, through play, develops sensory skills, such as colour recognition, and improves gross motor skills, for example hand-eye co-ordination.

Baton Relay: The Queen's Baton Relay is a Commonwealth Games tradition. It symbolises the uniting of Commonwealth countries during the four-yearly International sporting and cultural event. As the Queen's Baton Relay travels Scotland, on its way to the final destination at Glasgow, children can “pass the baton” to their play mates, whether enacting the Queen’s relay around your early learning centre or holding a conventional relay race. This activity is ideal for connecting children with their peers and promoting a sense of community within your centre.

Rhythmic Gymnastics: Create and perform dances to music using the rhythm ribbons, as part of the gymnastics component of the “Mini Games Day”. Rhythm ribbons are ideal to use for music and movement development, which fosters body awareness and control. Dancing has many developmental benefits including improving posture, balance, co-ordination, flexibility and agility. Rhythmic gymnastics also enhances creativity and self-expression and builds self-esteem and body confidence.

Badminton: Balance a shuttle on a racquet and walk to the end of the room or around a series of markers as a variation of the egg and spoon race. Alternatively, count how many times a child can continuously hit the shuttle with their racquet without it falling to the floor or throw the shuttle to the child and see if they can hit it back. Adaptations of this fast-paced racquet sport have many motor skill benefits including developing hand-eye co-ordination, agility, reaction time and balance.

Lawn bowls: Lawn bowls is an all-ages, all fitness level, precision sport that can easily be adapted to play on the lawn, cement, timber or carpet using any type of soft ball. Place a ball or object in the selected course area “green”. Teach children to roll their ball toward the ball or marker aiming to get as close to it as possible. This low-impact, skill-based sport improves co-ordination, increases concentration and tactical thinking leading to enhanced cognitive (thinking) function, mental wellbeing and confidence.

The Commonwealth Games will be held in Glasgow, Scotland from July 23rd until August 3rd. The Youth Olympic Games will be held in Nanjing, China from August 16th until August 28th.