Raising Kids Who Are Active for Life

Elementary school-aged kids play pick-up basketball at the park, having fun being active.

Moving our bodies is a key part of living an active lifestyle. But most kids aren’t getting the daily movement they need for healthy development. We understand there are a lot of things that get in the way of active time, but the truth is that movement is something kids need. Just like food, water and sleep.

But getting daily activity in shouldn’t be a chore. If our experts could offer caregivers only one tip about kids’ fitness, it’d be to make movement fun. Luckily, we’re not short on tips to get kids moving and keep them active, starting from birth all the way through the teen years. It all starts with understanding what movement for kids is—and what it isn’t. 


Graphic explains why it’s important to know the difference between exercise and physical activity.

In everyday conversation, we use words and phrases like “exercise” and “physical activity” interchangeably. But when it comes to developing a healthy relationship with movement in kids, it’s important to know the difference between exercise and physical activity.

Here's our take on these common kids’ fitness terms:

  • Physical activity happens any time you move your body.
  • Exercise is planned, structured, repeated bodily movement performed to improve fitness. It’s a type of physical activity. Examples of exercise include lifting weights, training for a sport or doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
  • Play is also a type of physical activity. It’s any activity we do for fun rather than for a practical or serious reason. (Spoiler alert: play isn’t just for kids!) 


Kids, especially babies, toddlers and young children, don’t need exercise. They need unstructured, active play.

When kids play, they learn to move their bodies because it’s fun and makes them feel good. Not because they’re working on their fitness. This positive relationship with activity can then set a healthy foundation for activity when they’re older. 

To keep things simple, our favorite kids’ fitness word is movement. Whether it’s tummy time for little ones or riding bikes for older kids, it’s the movement they need for healthy development. 

Toddler boy plays with a toy football outside, having fun being active.

There are tons of barriers to activity for kids. We’re all busier than ever, there’s less time to be active at school and there’s always a screen to stare at. (Let’s face it—adults struggle with being active, too.)

But a great first step to get kids moving and keep kids active is to reframe what we know about movement. Here’s our take.

Movement is:

  • A daily need for kids
  • Enjoyable and fun
  • A key part of developmental milestones
  • Something that helps us feel and sleep better
  • For everyone, and it looks different at every age


Movement isn’t:

  • A privilege to be given or taken away as punishment
  • Something we use to earn things (food or privileges)
  • Exhausting or painful
  • Only for older kids
  • Only about exercising
  • Always related to organized sports 

If kids learn about being active this way, they’re more likely to build a positive relationship with moving their bodies. And when they have that positive foundation, they’re more likely to continue an active lifestyle into adulthood.