Physical activity questions

Move Well Eat Well is a whole school approach for ALL children, but are you thinking or
talking about some of these more complex issues?

Here are some of the more complex questions that teachers are asking and some answers to help teachers deal with these questions.

This information has been supplied by the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services. For more information contact them on 03 61660610.

Is it OK to use 'Fitness' Circuits with children in Daily PE?

Activity Circuits* that are fun, engaging and safe are great to use with children in Daily PE Programs. They can help children develop a wide range of movement skills, coordination and fitness.

As with all physical activities for primary aged children, the emphasis should be on fun and enjoyment. As children move through their primary years many become more competitive and though it is important to add elements of competition to physical activities, the fun element of the activity should always be considered.

Considerations when planning Activity Circuits include:

  • A balance of different types of activity stations (in terms of actual activities and activity type, for example, moderate and vigorous activities and activities that build strength and flexibility).
  • The ages of children participating.
  • The developmental abilities of children participating.
  • Making frequent changes to the format of the circuit and the types of activities used in order to keep it fresh and engaging.
  • Allowing children to help plan the circuit.
  • Safety (your school’s HPE teacher should be able to advise on safety considerations).

For example, a ‘Fitness’ Circuit that only includes push ups, sit ups, sprints and a ball and bat striking drill is not going to be appropriate or appeal to a 5 year old.  Mixing traditional ‘fitness’ activities like sit ups or movement skills like throwing and catching with fun ‘active play’ style activities  like balancing or dance steps will make the circuit more appealing to younger and less able students. Having a simple option for each station may also be appropriate for younger students.

Considerations when operating Activity Circuits:

  • Teach activities before trying circuit. Ensure that all children understand how the circuit works i.e. what to do and when to move on.
  • For each activity station have a card which gives the name of the activity, a diagram or drawing showing the activity.
  • Emphasis should be placed on performing physical activities correctly rather than on speed.
  • Keep the circuit as non-stop as possible – there should be minimal waiting for turns.
  • If there are competitive children in a group encourage them to compete with themselves not each other.
  • Plan an activity for those who finish early.

* Activity Circuits are circuits that usually include a number of physical activity stations arranged in an area such as a hall or outside space. Each station has a different set of physical activities to be completed before the children move to the next station.


Sport New Zealand (2011). Active Schools Kori kit e Kura. KiwiDex Manual, Section 8: Circuits and Challenge Courses. Online:

Queensland Government (2012). Daily Physical Activity - A Guide for Schools. The State of Queensland Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing (DNPSR) 2012. Online:

How do I incorporate Fundamental Movement Skills into my class?

You can incorporate fundamental movement skills into your class by using these ideas (have your member school login details ready), or try this simple game that can be played either indoors or outdoors, aimed at improving the skill of throwing).

Roll Ball

  1. Designate a goal area marked by some indoor goals if you have them or simply two cones.
  2. Divide group into two teams, with the aim of the game to score a goal by rolling the ball into the designated goal area.
  3. On 'Go' students may take just one step with the ball, underarm throwing only. The ball must travel along the ground at all times using a technique similar to that of a "Ball Boy" in tennis.
  4. Turn over of possession if the ball bounces after a throw.

Mix it up: If playing inside, students can use the walls for ricocheting, if playing outside a designated court area will need to be marked. Best for Upper Primary.

Equipment: Tennis ball and goals

Space needed: Indoor friendly. Large space

Fundamental movement skills are essential for students to participate successfully in lifelong physical activity and sport.  By the age of 10 children should have acquired competency in core fundamental movement skills including running, jumping, catching and throwing.

Students do not pick up fundamental movement skills naturally as part of their normal growth and development.  It takes between 240 and 600 minutes of instruction time to become proficient in one fundamental movement skill.  Children who have well developed fundamental movement skills are more likely to have higher levels of physical activity and aerobic fitness.

It is important that all classroom teachers (not just primary physical education teachers) include the learning of movement skills as part of the school day.


Active healthy Kids Australia, Is Sport Enough? 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Young People, University of South Australia, May 2014

Lubans D, Morgan P, Cliff D, Barnett L, Okely A.  Fundamental Movement skills in children and adolescent s: Review of associated health benefits. Sports Medicine, 2010;40

Is it OK to reward children with screen time (e.g. smart phones, tablets, TV, electronic games)?

Yes, but in moderation and by using the Australian Guidelines about screen time as a guide.

Using a game on a smart phone or a movie as a reward for children is OK in moderation. Screens are now a part of everyday life but this doesn't mean that they have to dominate children's time. It is important to think about how often we let children engage in screen activities and also how often parents or teachers use screen time as a reward. Some research suggests that using screen time as a reward can make it even more appealing to children, which means they will want it more often.

Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend that primary age children spend no more than 2 hours a day using screens for entertainment (this doesn't include school work and homework). It is good to be aware of this 2 hour limit when thinking about offering screen time as a reward. If the reward is going to take children over the 2 hour threshold then offer a different reward. Chatting with children about their favourite non-screen based activities can give some reward ideas.

Reward ideas

  • An activity: art, craft, cooking, gardening, a game, a sport or an ongoing activity like building a treehouse or creating a class painting.
  • A place: park, playground, pool, café, library, a visit to a friend's house, or being a helper in a lower grade at school.
  • A role or responsibility: activity or class leader, a role in the home such as planning a favourite meal or deciding on a weekend activity.

If you do decide to use screen time as a reward, there are some electronic games, apps and TV programs can be quite physical. Selecting these rather than ones that involve long periods of sitting or lying down are much better for children – bodies are not meant to be sedentary for too long.

If you are a teacher then consider only offering screen time that is linked to classroom learning/for educational purposes. It is likely that children are already getting their 2 hours of screen time for entertainment at home, so they don't need it at school as well.


Department of Health (2014) Australia's Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Children (5-12 years). Commonwealth of Australia.

Mayo Clinic (2013) How to limit screen time.

Is it OK to use the beep test/fitness tests with children at school?

Most fitness testing including aerobic fitness/capacity tests (like the beep test/shuttle run) are OK if used appropriately within the curriculum. When too much fitness testing dominates the curriculum, there is little time left for positively influencing children's physical activity levels and their attitudes towards physical activity.

In the past fitness test scores have been used to grade children as a primary indicator of achievement. This is not recommended as it can have negative effects on children including:

  • Loss of interest in PE and physical activity
  • Depletion of student's confidence and self-esteem (some students find that, even with effort, they cannot achieve the fitness goals necessary to get good grades or to meet teacher expectations).

To ensure that fitness tests are appropriate and don't have negative effects on children, the following should be considered:

  • Fitness testing should promote learning. This can be achieved through classroom discussions and explaining the relevance of fitness components and ensuring that children understand how they can improve.
  • Fitness testing should promote positive attitudes towards being active. Keeping the emphasis on fun and reiterating that everyone has different levels of fitness is important.
  • Fitness testing procedures should be child-centred, developmentally appropriate and accessible for all children.
  • Fitness testing should be a positive and meaningful experience presented in an individualised manner that provides children with personalised baseline scores and feedback on how to improve their activity and fitness levels.
  • Personal improvement or maintenance over time should be the focus, not comparison with others.

Some things to be aware of when planning fitness tests include:

  • Understanding that fitness testing won't always increase pupils' activity levels
  • Interpreting fitness score tests carefully, with recognition of their limitations
  • Ensuring that fitness tests are age appropriate for children. Tests designed for adults should be avoided or modified.


Harris, J. and Cale, L., 2006. A review of children's fitness testing. European Physical Education Review, 12 (2), pp. 201 - 225

Some children in my class don't like physical activity, what can I do?

Is it about confidence? Bad experiences with physical activity in the past? the weather? A focus on competition and the potential to be a loser?

  • Try and make activities fun for all. Too much competition will most likely disengage some children.
  • Keep the variety high and give children some choice. Ask children in your class to share one physical activity they each enjoy doing and make an effort to provide this activity when planning daily or weekly activities.
  • Choose games with the least amount of waiting time for turns.

Use the following resources to assist you to make physical activity a fun, enjoyable and positive experience that children will want to participate in. Note: you'll need to login using your Member details. If youve forgotten them, email here.

Children are talking about "needing" sports drinks for our after school sports sessions, but I don't think they do. What's best?

Sports drinks are designed for athletes who do high- intensity activity for over an hour. These
drinks contain carbohydrate for energy and small amounts of electrolytes (sodium and
potassium) that are lost from sweating.

Most junior sport is at a level where energy and electrolytes do not need to be replaced during
a game. Making sure that your child has a meal before a game and drinks water before, during
and after the game will make sure they are able to perform at their best.

If your child is playing multiple games or has a number of events on the one day with less than
an hour between them, then sports drinks may be useful to encourage them to drink enough
and top up their energy stores.

If there is more than an hour between events it is best to eat everyday foods such as
sandwiches, fruit and yoghurt and drink water. This gives your child the necessary energy but
also important vitamins and minerals for growing bodies.

Do sports drinks affect your teeth?

Sports drinks, like other sweet drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juice can affect your teeth.
To reduce the risks of tooth decay:

  • use water as the drink of choice
  • do not swish or hold sports drinks in the mouth or mouthguard
  • use a straw or squeezy bottle as this helps the drink reach the back of the mouth

What about sports food?

Specialised sports foods such as sports bars, gels or powders are not recommended in
children under 15 years. These products have been developed for elite adult athletes to help
them meet their nutrition goals. These products contain vitamins and minerals well above the
recommended levels for children. Children should be able to meet all their nutrition needs for
sport by eating a wide variety of everyday foods.

What are the best snacks at half time for team sports?

If your child has eaten some carbohydrate-rich foods as part of a meal or snack before
competition it is unlikely they will need any extra during the game.
But sharing food can be a team building exercise and provide an opportunity to promote
healthy food messages alongside active play.
Ideal choices include fruit such as:

  • oranges
  • banana
  • watermelon

These fruits not only provide energy but are also a source of vitamins, minerals, fibre.

I've heard that sitting down isn't that good for kids, even the active ones. What's the latest?

Sitting around is also called "sedentary behaviour". Here's what it means for primary aged children:

Sedentary behaviour is the time you spend sitting or lying down, except when you are sleeping. To reduce the risk of poorer health, including type 2 diabetes everyone should limit how much time they spend sitting every day.

Even if kids are physically active every day, they will still benefit from sitting around less at home, at school, during travel and for play.

It is recommended that children (5–12 years),

  • Minimise the time spent being sedentary every day.
  • Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.

There are obviously some activities, like reading, doing school work, working on a computer, or travelling, that may need to be done while you are sitting. The key is to find a healthy balance, and to look for opportunities to stand up and move whenever you can.

For the latest information, tips and ideas about sedentary behaviour and Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, visit the Australian Government website: