Infant Exercise Programs

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Infant exercise programs are becoming abundant in the United States. In most programs, massage techniques, passive exercises, and holding an infant in various positions are used. Some programs involve the purchase of "exercise equipment." Promoters have claimed that participation by an infant in these programs will improve physical prowess.

In early infancy, the predominant neuromuscular responses are reflex in nature. Most activity at this age can be attributed to an intrinsic arousal-seeking drive. Natural curiosity and the drive toward self-sufficiency motivate infants in virtually all activities.

Providing a stimulating environment for an infant's development is extremely important.

Environmental deprivation will impede the developmental progress of an infant. There is some evidence that conditioned responses can be elicited in the newborn period. However, there have been no data to suggest that structured programs or the promotion of conditioned responses will advance skills or provide any long-term benefit to normal infants.

The bones of infants are more susceptible to trauma than those of older children and adults.

The skeletal system of the child in the first year of life is less than optimally ossified. Infants do not have the strength or reflexes necessary to protect themselves from external forces. The possibility exists that adults may inadvertently exceed the infant's physical limitations by using structured exercise programs.

Parents do not need specialized skills or equipment to provide an environment for the optimum development of their infant. An infant should be provided with opportunities for touching, holding, face-to-face contact, and minimally structured playing with safe toys. If these opportunities occur, an infant's intrinsic motivation will guide his or her individual developmental course.

Therefore, the AAP recommends that

  1. structured infant exercise programs not be promoted as being therapeutically beneficial for the development of healthy infants and
  2. parents be encouraged to provide a safe, nurturing, and minimally structured play environment for their infant.


Please use the following lesson ideas to supplement your preschool lessons. They are not presented here to simply fill out a lesson plan with "fun" activities. Most of the activities are suggested to assist children in learning basic skills and concepts such as catching, kicking, and space awareness.


Sticker Stepping

Skiing Pathways

Magic Ball

Grocery Bag Fun

Striking a ball with a paddle

Rolling Forward

Pathway Movement

Catching With Launch


Shadow Tag

Stepping With Opposite Foot

Pathway Dribble

Carpet Space Sit

Body Part Awareness

Jump Rope Instruction



Sticker Step Throwing


Concept being Taught: Throwing


Purpose of Activity: To help children start to understand what foot they need to step with when throwing a ball using an underhand motion.


Suggested Grade Level: PreK-2


Materials Needed: Pack of stickers (enough for each student to have two: 1 for their hand and 1 for their foot), yarn or Koosh balls, bean bags, hoops, boxes, poly spots


Description of the Activity


Set up the playing area prior to student arrival by scattering poly spots throughout the playing area. Then place a hoop (or other target) about 3-5 spaces from the spot.


When you meet your students at the door, ask them to raise the hand that they write or color with. While the students are raising their hand, tell them that you will be placing a sticker on their raised hand and not to touch the sticker unless they are told to. Place the sticker on the back of their hand.


Then, tell them you are going to place a sticker on their sneaker but it is going to be on the sneaker/foot that is opposite to the sticker on their hand.


Ask the students to get a yarn/Koosh ball and stand quietly on a poly spot.

Have them put the ball in the hand that has the sticker and then put two feet (side-by-side) on the poly spot. Have them step with the opposite foot (the one with the sticker) and underhand toss to the hoop or other target that is theirs.

Practice this for awhile and then as some students start to understand stepping with the opposite foot remove the stickers.


Skiing Pathways


Concept being Taught: Spatial Awareness/Pathways


Purpose of Activity: Students will demonstrate an understanding of and ability to move in straight, curved, and zigzag pathways


Suggested Grade Level: K-2


Materials Needed: 2 paper plates for each student


Description of the Activity / Task:


After introducing the concept of straight, curved, and zigzag pathways and having students move through general space while making different pathways, give each student a pair of skis (paper plates) to place underneath their feet.

Students must keep their feet on the paper plates while listening to the ski instructor (you).


Explain to each student that they are on a mountain. Point out valleys (one side of the gym) and other mountains (other side of gym), where to get hot chocolate (any corner), etc. Tell students they will be skiing today, and that we will have to change their pathways as they move in order not to crash into other skiers.


Ask students then to ski around the mountain using straight, then curved and zigzag, pathways.

Observe students to make sure that they are making the correct pathway. Have them ski to the "valley" or "other mountains" or to get "hot chocolate" using different combinations of pathways, for example, like making a spiral into a zig-zag pathway, etc. Then, ask them to design a pattern made up of the different pathways and practice "freestyle skiing" that pattern in the "snow" until they can do it exactly the same each time.

If desired and time allows, have students draw these patterns on paper and/or demonstrate their pattern to other students (for example, all boys show the girls and visa-versa). This can also serve as an assessment of students' understanding of pathways.



 This activity works best on smooth floors!


Magic Ball


Concept being Taught: Spacial Awareness


Purpose of Activity: To help students apply the concept of moving in different directions


Suggested Grade Level: K-2


Materials Needed: One medium-sized ball of any type; hula hoops, poly spot, or other such space markers for each child


Description of the Activity / Task:


Once students have been introduced to the different directions of up, down, forward, backward, and sideways (for grade 2 students: may wish to be specific with "right" and "left"), let them know they will be moving to a "Magic Ball" today. What's magic about it is that whenever the ball moves, they will move, too!


Have the students move to a self space, using the space markers if desired.

Make sure all the students can see and hear you well. Holding the "magic ball", begin to slowly move it in different directions around your body. The children should follow the movements of the ball. Be sure to mix the directions up, sometimes going at a faster speed and sometimes slower, to keep the suspense up!

For example:


Move the ball down to the ground: students sink or melt as far down as the ball goes; if it goes to the floor, students lay on the floor;


Begin to move the ball up; students rise along with the ball;


Move the ball up and down more quickly; students jump up and down;


Move the ball sideways to the right or left; students move right or left as far as the ball moves;


Push the ball away from your middle for "forwards"; move it toward your middle for "backwards".


Note: This activity can also be used to assess students' knowledge of the different directions. As you move the "magic ball" up, down, right, left, etc., have the students write down the specific direction it was moved in on their paper. You may wish to post the direction words on a wall nearby toaid students in spelling the words, or you may encourage them to spell the best they can.


Grocery Bag Fun


Concept being Taught: Catching


Purpose of Activity: To help students improve their ability to catch and control an object. Cue Focus: Keep your eye on the bag (ball)


Suggested Grade Level: K-2


Materials Needed: a plastic grocery sack for each child


Description of the Activity / Task:


Using plastic grocery sacks to help children who are just beginning to learn catching works great!

To get their attention before beginning, begin to toss and catch the plastic bag in the air, making sure to toss using one of the handles. Then tell them we'll be using the bags today to toss and catch.

Ask them what they think they have to do in order to be sure and catch it (hopefully some of them say "keep your eye on the bag"). If they don't know, throw the bag up and then look somewhere else, therefore dropping the bag. Then see if they can tell you. Also remind them to hold it by the handle when tossing it.


Before giving them a bag, speak to them about not putting the bag over their head! Then have them take the bag to a self space. Once there, challenge them to do some of the following activities while keeping their eyes on the bag:


Toss your bag up with your (right) hand. Can you catch it with that hand?

Toss your bag up with your (other) hand. Can you catch it with that hand?

Can you toss the bag up with one hand and catch it in the other?

Can you toss your bag up and catch it with either hand for 5 times in a row, without letting it touch the floor?

How many times can you toss and catch it up without letting it touch the floor? (Let students raise their hand when you say, "Raise your hand if you caught it 1-5 times in a row...5 to 10 times in a row...over 10 times (etc.)".

Can you toss your bag up high, run under it, and then catch it?

Can you spin around, holding your sack straight out, then let it go and catch it before it hits the ground?

Can you toss your bag up high, spin around, and then catch it before it hits the ground?

Can you toss your bag to a partner, who catches it and tosses it back to you?


Give students time to work with a partner, as the children work together to make up their own games using the bags. For example, one activity some of my students made up was having one child run with the sack trailing behind them.

When they let it go, their partner (running behind them) tried to catch the sack before it hit the ground.


Striking A Ball


Concept being Taught: Striking skills


Purpose of Activity: To introduce young children to striking a ball with a paddle


Suggested Grade Level: Preschool-2


Materials Needed: 18-Inch-High Cones, Ethafoam Paddles (i.e., lollipop paddle),

Lightweight 6-8" ball of some sort (balls smaller than that allow students to hit too much of the cone), carpet squares to put under the cones to adjust height for some children


Description of the Activity Task:


An easy way to introduce young children to striking skills using a short handled paddle is to use an 18-inch-high cone, a paddle (preferably an ethafoam paddle because it is lightweight), and a ball. This is the same principle as using a batting tee.


Indoors or out, make sure cones are spread out so that children do not swing and accidently strike another child. (It is a good idea to put jump ropes out to surround the area the cones and the area the children are standing in--this indicates the "striker-only" area.) Children place their ball on the cone, hold their paddle back to the side of their body, and then swing as hard as they can. Ask the children to focus on the ball (watch the ball) and to stand still when swinging the paddle.


The teachers role with this activity is to observe children and assist them in making adjustments in the way they hold the paddle, how they are standing, or with their swing. Remember that at this young age children need to swing the paddle through a full range of motion. So, ask that they swing hard or "See how far you can hit the ball."


Teaching Tips:


You may want to have several balls in a box that is close by to the teeing area so they have lots of practice trials.

Do not let children go out into the area to collect balls until the teacher says to go. Please have them go all at once. Their task is to pick up as many balls that they hit out of their box--and they don't have to pick up the one they hit! Please practice the pick up section of this activity!

May want to have a child "on deck" waiting for a turn if your class is big or your activity area is small.


Rolling Forward


Concept being Taught: The forward roll


Purpose of Activity: The purpose of this activity is to introduce young children to the forward roll.


Suggested Grade Level: Pre-K thru 2


Materials Needed: Foam Incline Wedge Mat (The best foam wedge for young children is one that is 10 inches at the top to 2 inches at the bottom along a 30-inch length. The wedge should be 18" wide and can be made by cutting dense foam to the described dimensions or purchased through a physical education catalog equipment company.)


Also needed is a wooden box that is 10 inches high and 18 by 18 inches square for the child to stand on. The box can be built out of plywood.


Description of the Activity / Task:


It is much easier for young children to learn to do a forward roll down an incline than it is on a flat surface. Place the wedge up to the edge of the wooden box. Ask the child to stand on the box and face the incline. The child's hands should be placed on the wedge a few inches from the child's feet. Point the fingers forward and slightly bend the knees. Ask the child to put their chin on their chest, raise their bottom in the air and push off with the feet.


Teacher Role:


The teacher should make sure the child's head is tucked by placing a hand on the back of the child's head and gently moving the chin toward the chest. Use the other hand to gently push on the child's bottom to start the roll. The teacher should make sure the child rolls onto the back and shoulders as opposed to rolling onto the head.


Lack of Equipment:


Some preschools may lack enough equipment to allow all children to practice forward rolls at the same time. If this is the case, rolling might best be taught as a station activity. One child works with the teacher at the rolling station while the other children practice jumping, balancing, and or other appropriate station activities.



Pathway Movement


Concept being Taught: Pathways - Straight, Zig Zag, Curved


Purpose of Activity: To assist young children in identifying pathways and to explore movement along those pathways.


Suggested Grade Level: Pre-K thru 2


Materials Needed: Colored Construction Paper, Tape


Description of the Activity / Task:


Cut small footsteps (child size), arrows, dots, squares, and other shapes out of construction paper. It is strongly recommended to have these shapes laminated.

Tape shapes on the floor in the movement area to form zig zag, curved and straight lines.


Ask children to move around the room and follow the teacher designed pathways made with the shapes. Children should be allowed to explore the variety of locomotor movements they can do while moving along the various pathways.


In addition to taping pathways on the floor in the movement area, tape them on the floor in the children's classroom.




As children develop a sense of what the pathways are provide the paper shapes and tape and let them design their own pathways on the floor.




At the conclusion of the class or when children return to the classroom, ask that they draw pictures of the curved, zig zag, and straight pathways.


Shadow Tag


Concept being Taught: Chasing, fleeing, and moving in general space


Purpose of Activity: To allow young children the opportunity to explore the skills of chasing and fleeing.


Suggested Grade Level: Preschool-1


Materials Needed: A Sunny Day!!!


Description of the Activity Task:


This activity requires plenty of space and lots of sunshine! Have the childrenpair up and then find a good space in general space with their partner. Designate one child as the "walker" and the other the "tagger."


Ask children to find their shadows. On the signal "go" the tagger tries to "tag" the "walker" by stepping on his or her shadow. Have the children switch roles and continue playing.


Teaching Tips:


You may have to explain the importance of trust and honesty to help make this game fun and active.

To eliminate touching (and possibly knocking a child down) the tagger should shout "caught" when stepping on the partner's shadow.


The Launch Board Catch


Concept being Taught: Catching


Purpose of Activity: To provide young children with the opportunity to develop catching skills


Suggested Grade Level: Preschool through First


Materials Needed: A launch board and a small ball, beanbag, or kooshball for each child


Instructions for Making: Launch boards are easy to make. Use 1/4-inch thick birch plywood and cut boards 30 inches long and 5 inches wide. Seven inches from one end, attach a 5-inch-long, 1-1/2 inch-diameter dowel stick with glue and screws. If you plan on using a ball, drill a 2-inch hole in the end of the board to lay the ball in. To finish up draw an "X" or paint a child's footprint on the board as a target. A 4 X 8 piece of plywood makes about 30 launch boards.


Description of the Activity / Task:


A great way to help young children achieve catching success is to use a launch board. When a child steps on one end of the board a beanbag on the other end flies into the air directly in front of the child. This gives the child a better opportunity to catch the object.


Teacher Instructions - "Place your beanbag on the low end of the board.

Go to the other end, get your hands ready to catch by holding them out in front of you, then raise your foot and stomp on the end of the board. As the beanbag flies into the air in front of you, clasp your hands around the beanbag and catch it. You may also want to hug the beanbag to your body"


As children get better at catching they can be challenged with more difficult tasks. "See how high you can make the beanbag go and still catch it." Or, "See how many times you can clap your hands while the beanbag is in the air and still catch it."




1. Most children, at first, will have trouble coordinating the acts of picking up the foot and stomping on the board. They may stomp in the wrong place or miss completely. It helps to have them practice this without an object first


2. These make a lot of noise so either put felt on the bottom of both ends or tell your classroom teachers to wear earplugs!!


Stepping With The Opposite Foot


Concept being Taught: Throwing


Purpose of Activity: To help young children start to understand what foot they need to step with when throwing a ball.


Suggested Grade Level: K-1


Materials Needed: Yarn or koosh balls


Description of the Activity Task:


Ask your class to sit in front of you and ask them to raise the hand that they write with or have them raise their favorite hand. Make sure they are sitting with their legs extended in front of them. Have them keep that hand in the air. Ask them to touch the shoe (or leg) that is on the same side of their body as the hand they have raised.


Now have them take off that shoe that they just pointed to. Check to make sure they get the correct shoe off. When they have stowed away that shoe in a safe place give the students that are ready a yarn or a koosh ball. After they receive a ball they can go into the well defined area and start throwing the ball as far as they can.


After watching the students throw stop the kids and tell them that when they throw the next time make sure you step forward on the leg that has the shoe ON! Go around and give feedback and help. It works wonderfully!


Pathway Dribble


Concept being Taught: Foot dribbling


Purpose of Activity: To allow young children the opportunity to explore dribbling a ball with their feet


Suggested Grade Level: Preschool-1


Materials Needed: Jump ropes or tape, balls (preferably slightly deflated balls so they don't lose control) to dribble with feet


Description of the Activity Task:


Set up the playing area with different length jump rope or tape pathways.

Have the children get a ball and take the ball to the beginning of one of those pathways.


On the signal have the students use their feet to move their ball through the pathway using "soft touches" with their feet. Have them use both the inside and outside of their feet when they are dribbling.


Teaching Tips:


Tape jump ropes to the floor to help keep them in place.

Use arrows to guide the children.

To vary the task (for the higher skilled) you may want to have students work in partners. Have one partner dribble the ball forward a few times, then gently pass it to his or her teammate. Play continues back and forth.


Carpet Space Sit


Concept being Taught: Self Space


Purpose of Activity: To help children understand self space so they can move safely through their environment.


Suggested Grade Level: Preschool through First


Materials Needed: One carpet square (approximately 12" by 18") for each child


Description of the Activity / Task:


It is crucial for young children to understand the difference between general and self space. In order to do this ask the children to arrange carpet squares in a circle and then sit on their square (may want to have a taped "X" marked on the floor in a circle to help facilitate this quickly). Otherwise, you may need to assist children with the circle arrangement the first several classes. Using the carpets gives the teacher an opportunity to greet each child and to provide the set induction for the days activities.


Explain to the children that the space on the carpet is their space, and no one else can get in that space. The teacher should demonstrate the importance of space awareness by attempting to sit on a carpet already occupied by a child. Children quickly understand the concept of self space through this activity.

Remember, self space is a concept that is emphasized in preschool throughout the school year, not only in the physical education environment but in the classroom by the classroom teacher. Teachers who don't thoroughly teach this concept typically have a hard time managing more movement oriented lessons in the future.


Body Part Awareness


Concept being Taught: Identification of Body parts


Purpose of Activity: To help children understand body part names and locations.


Suggested Grade Level: Preschool through First


Materials Needed: None


Description of the Activity / Task:


One might think that all preschool children know the parts of their bodies.

But this is not true for all children. Even those who can recite the names of various parts might not understand the relationships of those parts and their potential for movement.


A fun beginning activity is simply to ask children to locate with their hands different parts of the body. Children can be sitting on their carpet squares in a circle at the beginning or end of class. This typically would take no more than 2 to 3 minutes.

A list of some body parts for children to identify is listed below.











First Attempts at Jumping Rope


Concept being Taught: Jumping Rope


Purpose of Activity: To provide children with simple directions and assist them in learning how to turn and jump over a jump rope.


Suggested Grade Level: Preschool through First


Materials Needed: A rope, seven feet in length, preferably one with plastic beads along the ropes length


Description of the Activity / Task:


Young children love the challenge of trying to jump and land over a rope.

Even children as young as three years of age can learn the movement patterns involved in swinging the rope and jumping at the appropriate time. By age 5, most children can turn the rope and jump several times in a row.


A jump rope 7 feet long with plastic beads along its length is the best type of rope for young children. The plastic beadsgive the rope extra weight to help children swing the rope over their heads. A longer rope tends to tangle; a shorter rope is difficult for children to get over their heads.


This an example of what the teacher might say to the young child to assist them with the initial steps of learning to jump rope.


1. Hold the rope by the handles, one in each hand. Hold the handles with your thumbs pointing down.


2. Hold the rope out in front of your body.


3. Step over the rope.


4. Bend your elbows up close to your ears.


5. Move the arms forward and swing the rope over your head.


6. Let the rope hit the floor.


7. Jump over the rope, taking off and landing on two feet.


Note: Some children will not be ready to jump over the rope and should be instructed to simply step over the rope. Jumping will come later. At this point the most important factor is that the children learn how to turn the rope.


Safety Precaution: Emphasize that children should not jump while the rope is in the air. Children will sometimes do this and, losing their balance, fall forward. The rope should strike the floor in front of the child before the child attempts to jump.




Concept being Taught: Moving in different directions


Purpose of Activity: To explore walking in different directions and observe changes in tempos.


Suggested Grade Level: Preschool through First


Materials Needed: One carpet square or base for each child, drum or tambourine, cones to mark off playing area


Description of the Activity


Scatter bases (carpet squares work fine also) around the playing area. On the drumbeat the children begin walking in and around the bases. Have them explore the entire area but they need to avoid the bases. When the drum stops, they move to the nearest base and freeze on the base. They are welcome to share a base. Make sure they don't fight over it.

Repeat this, using different directions for the students to move in (i.e., sideways, diagonally, backwards) and increasing or decreasing the tempo of the drum beat. Ask the children to walk to the tempo the teacher is beating.


Have the children stand on a base as quickly as they can.

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