The structure of a warm-up

When designing a warm-up activity for children aged 2 – 5 years consider their developmental stages which includes their understanding of instructions, rules and their individual physical development. The warm-up should promote a gentle increase in internal body heat and prepare the body for the proposed activities to follow. A child can improve performance by activating neuromuscular pathways by rehearsing movements that will be used in the main component later in the session.

Mobilising the joints can be incorporated using different types of movements to themes such as animals, transport, jungle, space, pirates…. Activities should be imaginative and progressive to promote fun and engagement.

Dynamic stretching should be included which includes a full range of movement: for example, a starfish or snow angel, or a squat down to ‘small’ and stand up. A session might include the following mobility exercises:

Dynamic Stretching Exercises

Table 6 Dynamic Stretching Exercises

Delivering the warm-up should be done using an interval approach (stop-start) so that the children do not become too tired too quickly.
A warm-up session might include the following pulse raising exercises (movements that increase the heart rate and breathing rate)

  • Slow walking
  • Fast walking
  • Hands and feet walking (body facing towards the floor)
  • Hands and feet walking (body facing towards the ceiling)
  • Marching

Using action songs is also another way to incorporate mobility and pulse-raising without making it so obvious such as Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes, Simon Says and Wheels on The Bus for example. The warm-up for children should be a shorter duration than an adult one due to their bodies heating up faster and they should never become fully out of breath or fatigued.

Equipment can be used in the warm-up, but remember to keep it fun, engaging and provide different equipment in the session to keep the children engaged.