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Early Years (0-5)

Being physically active every day is important for the healthy growth and development of babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

Being physically active every day is important for the healthy growth and development of babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

Healthy development in early childhood lays the foundation for successful developmental outcomes in later life and consequently impacts several aspects of adult life, eg, health and wellbeing, educational attainment and economic status.

Yet reports show that only nine per cent of children aged two to four in England meet the physical activity recommendations.

“91 per cent of children aged two to four years do not meet the physical activity recommendations” –  The Health Survey for England

Download the UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines for Early Years

These guidelines explain the level of physical activity children from birth to five years should achieve a day to ensure they are active, happy, healthy, school ready, and sleep well.

Physical activity for early years pdf format

“Two is too late! … the building blocks for lifelong emotional and physical health are laid down in the period from conception to the age of two and we don’t give this critical period the focus it deserves” – Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP

A young boy swinging on a swing in a playground
Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash

Key resources:

NHS guidance (0 – 5 years): www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-guidelines/physical-activity-guidelines-children-under-five-years/

DfE resources, activity ideas and advice for supporting early years children with the three areas of physical development: core strength and co-ordination, gross motor skills and fine motor skills: help-for-early-years-providers.education.gov.uk/physical-development

Active Cornwall Time 2 Move (Birth – 12 Months): www.activesussex.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/TIME-2-MOVE-Physical-Play-Ideas-0-12-months-1.pdf

Evidence and research:

UK Government: The best start for life: a vision for the 1,001 critical days (Conception – 2 years)


National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine: Physical Activity in the Early Years (0-5 years)


Training for early years settings:

Early Years PE, Physical Activity & Physical Development

Created by Early Childhood, Physical Activity and Movement Play Specialist, Helen Battelley, this course will be instrumental for your future practice in PE and physical activity provision. Suitable for anyone working with children aged three to seven years.

  • Develop a wider understanding of the physical and social challenges facing the Early Years sector
  • Gain confidence in the areas of movement play and physical activity

When? Anytime (this is an on-demand course)

Where? Online virtual delivery

Cost: £295 (£147.50 for Thrive members)

Find out more

Local Sussex support:

East Sussex: Healthy Active Little Ones (HALO), HALO is a free programme for early years settings, including school nurseries and childminders. It helps you to reflect, identify and action further development in health and wellbeing areas: czone.eastsussex.gov.uk/teaching-and-learning/early-years/ey-resources/halo

Brighton & Hove: Physical Development in the Early Years Foundations Stage:


West Sussex: Health and Wellbeing for Early Years Practitioners:


Programmes and resources to develop early years physical activity

Early Movers: www.earlymovers.org.uk

Learning through Landscapes: ltl.org.uk

Youth Sport Trust Healthy Movers: www.youthsporttrust.org/programmes/healthy-movers

Balanceability: www.balanceability.com

Hidden Talents: hiddentalentslive.co.uk

Tiny Tots Yoga: ukyoga.co.uk

BBC Tiny Happy People: www.bbc.co.uk/tiny-happy-people

David Taylor

Active Schools Officer

David works with Sussex schools to put PE, sport and physical activity at the heart of school life. He supports and promotes initiatives, programmes and local offers that develop PE, sport and physical activity provision within education.

A young girl playing with a giant hoop
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