Physical Health and Wellbeing

In the words of our own Olivia Newton John – let’s get physical!

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Welcome to ‘Play Learn Grow’ and the release of our third domain – Physical Health and Wellbeing. Here you will find information, resources and ideas that encourage and support your child to be physically active every day. We will also explore why physical activity it is important to their development. To kick off the series, let’s look at the benefits of being physically active and how much time children should spend moving, grooving and shaking their bodies every day!

Why physical activity is important

Whether you are an adult or a child, being physically active every day is important for good physical and mental health, development and wellbeing. Children of all ages will benefit from being physically active and this can be in the form of many different activities. From floor play and tummy time for young babies, to running, jumping and dancing for older children, doing some sort of physical activity every day is not only great fun, but will help children establish good practices and stay healthy through adolescence and adulthood!

Wondering how long your baby or child should be physically active for each day? The following is recommended for children aged up to 12 years (as per Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines):

Birth to 1 year

Even before they are mobile, babies should be physically active several times a day in various ways, including interactive floor based play, moving around on the floor (moving their arms and legs, rolling, crawling) and 'tummy time’ while awake (at least 30 minutes per day).

1 to 5 years

At least 3 hours of being physically active, including running, jumping, dancing and/or skipping. Obviously the 3 hours doesn’t have to be done in one session, rather it should be spread out over the course of the day with breaks and time to rest in between.

5 to 12 years

At least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day to increase the heart rate. That includes fast walking, riding a bike or scooter, playing, running and participating in organised sports. 60 minutes of physical activity doesn't have to be done all in one session. You can build it up so your child accumulates the physical activity over the day.


Physical activity ideas and recommendations

Ok, so now we know what the daily recommendations are for physical activity, what are some simple ideas or things your children can do at home or in the community that will get them up and about and moving? Over the next few weeks we will share with you some more ideas and activities on offer, but here’s a few to start with:

For infants (birth to 12 months)

  • Give your baby at least 30 minutes of tummy time over the course of the day (not all at once) while they are awake. Babies can move their arms and legs and lift their head. You can also lay on your tummy next to them or facing them and interact by talking and smiling.
  • Get down on the floor and play with your baby. If they can sit up, place some toys near them, encouraging them to reach and grasp the objects. Clap hands and move to rhythm or music.
  • Crawling, pulling themselves up to a standing position and taking their first steps are all ways babies stay physically active.

For toddlers (1 to 2 years)

Things become more interesting (and fun) once toddlers start to walk! Toddlers usually love to run and move around and that’s great. The more active play toddlers take part in, the better. You can give the following a try:

  • Create a simple and fun obstacle course at home, either inside or in the backyard. It might involve throwing a ball into a basket, jumping up and down 5 times, crawling under a chair and running from one end of the backyard to the other.
  • Head to the park or playground for some fun on the play equipment, or take a ball and throw it in the air or roll it along the ground.

For pre-schoolers (3 to 5 years)

Children aged 3 to 5 years have LOTS of energy! The more active play pre-schoolers take part in, the better. Give some of these a try: 

  • Ball games are great for kicking and throwing movements. Kick or throw a ball in the backyard or at the park.
  • Dancing - get some music going and dance around the lounge room or bedroom to your favourite tunes. You can even put on some fun clothes or dress ups.
  • Playgrounds are great places for active play! Play on the equipment and run around the open space. Take a frisbee to throw to each other.
  • Go for a bush walk and find a log your child can balance on. You might want to hold their hand. Can they do a big jump off it?

Remember, physical activity for toddlers and pre-schoolers should be FUN and encourage exploration and discovery.

And the other great news is that by participating in these fun activities with your child, you will also be physically active and healthy!


Fine and gross motor skills

What are they you ask? And what can I do to help my child develop these skills?

Keep reading for some valuable information about how and when children acquire these skills, why they are important, and what they lead to later in life.

Fine motor skills – what are they?

Fine motor skills involve the use of the smaller muscles of the hands and fingers (and feet and toes!), and are important in activities such as using pencils or scissors, picking up or grasping items, tying shoe laces, opening lunch boxes, using a knife and fork, and playing with lego.

What age do children develop fine motor skills?

While all children develop at their own pace, they do reach some milestones within certain age ranges.

Babies start to grasp objects using their hands (but not necessarily their thumbs) between 5 and 6 months old. They usually start to play with hand-held toys between 6 and 12 months and may even transfer items from one hand to another.

By 18 months, most toddlers will attempt more complex skills. These may include:

  • Drinking from a cup independently
  • Trying to dress themselves
  • Using a crayon or pencil
  • Turning the pages of a book
  • Pointing to their eyes, nose and mouth

From 2 years old, toddlers' fine motor skills become more sophisticated. They may start to show an interest in:

  • Scribbling and drawing
  • Trying to write
  • Building block towers (using 4 to 6 blocks)

Between 2 and 3 years old, they might be able to turn doorknobs, screw jar lids, paint with a brush and cut with scissors.

How can I help my child develop fine motor skills?

There are lots of simple, easy things and activities you can do with your child to help them develop and practise their fine motor skills. These include:  

  • Paint, draw, glue and cut (with safety scissors).
  • Pick up objects with tongs or toy tweezers.
  • Play with blocks, Lego or do puzzles together.
  • Roll playdough into shapes and cut with cookie cutters.
  • Sand play using spades and buckets.
  • Stacking cups or containers so they can pop the smaller ones into the larger ones. They can also use them to fill with water and practise pouring.
  • Thread beads.


Gross motor skills – what are they?

Gross motor skills are the ability to control the muscles of the body for large movements such as crawling, walking, jumping, running and more. 

What age do children develop gross motor skills?

Like fine motor skills, kids start developing gross motor skills when they’re small babies. Young babies will move their arms and legs when laying down or in the bath. 

At 6 to 8 months of age, babies should be able to roll, reach and sit independently (if only briefly).

Most babies start to walk between 12 and 18 months of age.

By 2 years old, toddlers can typically:

  • Jump over small objects
  • Throw a small ball or object
  • Walk up and down stairs

Between 2 and 3 years, kids are capable of more complex movements such as:

  • Climbing stairs without holding the railing
  • Running faster
  • Avoiding obstacles

By the time your child is aged 3 to 5 years, movement may progress to:

  • Climbing on play equipment
  • Walking on a balance beam

How can I help my child develop gross motor skills?

There are lots of things you can do at home or at a park or playground that will help your baby or child develop their gross motor skills. Firstly, give your child the space to safely explore their environment and practise their gross motor skills. This could be outside in the backyard (running around or throwing a ball) or even inside in the lounge room (a baby safely laying on the floor kicking his or her legs, crawling or rolling over).

You can expect a few falls and bumps. They'll likely be testing their physical limits to know how far they can run, climb, and jump. Some activities you can do include

  • Blow and chase bubbles outside
  • Dance to music at home
  • Encourage them to 'help' with everyday tasks, such as gardening or hanging clothes on the line
  • Throw a large ball to them, and have them throw it back
  • Visit playgrounds, parks and the various walking tracks around Greater Shepparton

Try to limit screen time as this limits movement and physical play.



If you have any concerns about your child’s fine or gross motor skills, you can make an appointment to see your local Maternal and Child Health nurse by calling 5832 9312.

Limiting Screen Time

Screens are very much part of our world. They can be great for learning, play and communication, but too much screen time can be unhealthy. It’s time to put that device or phone away and play!

This fact sheet provides some great information on recommended daily screen time for children.

Did you know?

  • No screen time is recommended for children under 2 years of age
  • For children aged 2 to 5 years, less than 1 hour per day is recommended
  • For children aged 5 to 12 years, less than 2 hours is recommended

Keeping active in autumn 

Even through the cooler months, there are still lots of activities you can do with your child to keep everyone physically active and healthy.

Let’s check out what is happening around Greater Shepparton that will keep you moving:


Playgroups always have lots on offer for children and parents/carers. Children get to develop and practice fine motor skills through craft activities, painting and playdough, as well as gross motor skills through ball games and outside play.

Find a playgroup near you

Rail Trails

Greater Shepparton is home to two rail trails, both suitable for short rides through picturesque landscapes, with interpretive signage along the way. 

The Dookie Rail Trail stretches out both east and west of the Dookie township, through the fertile farmlands, with great views to the surrounding hills including Mt Saddleback, Gentle Annie and Mt Major. Golden with canola in the springtime and rolling hills full of hay bales in the summer, autumn brings the spectacular views of the red volcanic sands that Dookie is renowned for.

The Murchison Rail Trail travels 8km (16km return) east of the township and features an historically significant bridge and the unique ecosystem of the Doctor’s Swamp wetlands, which offers easy access to the Parks Victoria picnic area on the western boundary of the swamp.

Skate Parks

Greater Shepparton is home to three skate parks offering a wide range of technical challenges and sections for all abilities. Parks are located in Shepparton (Victoria Park Lake), Mooroopna (Ferrari Park) and Tatura (Flanagans Lane).

Shared Bike and Walking Tracks

Did you know you can walk or ride all the way from one end of Shepparton to the other? Or from Shepparton to Mooroopna?

Our shared bike and pedestrian paths are a great way to check out the changing autumn landscape and enjoy a morning or afternoon out in the fresh air.

Get your bike, scooter, pram and walking shoes, and explore one of the fantastic paths across Greater Shepparton. You might even come across a couple of playgrounds for a chance to stop for a play. And remember, put your phone away whilst you are out and about, so you can talk to your child about what you can see, smell and hear!

Quick facts

  • Physical activity can start very early in life as part of everyday play. Being active, eating good foods and receiving care and support from local health services can all help them grow up strong, happy and healthy.
  • Children aged 1-5 years need physical activity for at least 3 hours each day. For babies, 30 minutes of tummy time each day help them grow and develop.
  • You can get lots of help and information from the Maternal and Child Health Nurses about: raising happy, healthy kids; parenting information and family health and wellbeing.
  • Going to all of the MCH key age and stage visits is very important so you can keep track of your child’s height, weight, development, have eye sight checked, learn about play, food and sleeping.
  • Have fun at home running around in the backyard, playing a game of catch, throwing the frisbee or have a backyard picnic. Meet some friends at the park or playground. Go for a bushwalk or bike ride as a family.
  • A variety of healthy foods helps give children the energy they need to play, learn and grow.
  • Raising Children Network – Physical activity for young children.
  • See below for links to some fun activity sheets and information for families:
    • Got It – Activity Sheet
    • Looking for Mini Beasts – Activity Sheet
    • Making Body Shapes – Activity Sheet
    • Healthy-food-every-day
    • Healthy eating head to toe

Activity sheets

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