Physical education, physical activity and sport

What is physical education and how can it help my child?

Physical education, physical activity and sport (sometimes abbreviated to PEPAS) can all be used to help in your child's development, to provide opportunities to move, to play, to learn and to develop physical skills.

  • Physical education (PE) is a programme of activities that aims to provide children and young people with learning experiences that enable them to develop the knowledge, motivation and ability to lead a physically active life.
  • Physical activity is a term that describes any movement that the body makes that requires energy.
  • Sport is an organised activity where individuals or teams compete against each other for entertainment.

How can I help?

This leaflet will give you some great ideas of how you can support your child's learning in physical education. It illustrates the benefits PE can bring to many areas of life.

PDF file: Physical education (PE) leaflet for parents (297 KB)

Early level

Note: children in their early years and Primary 1, as well as some older children, will be working at the Early level of Curriculum for Excellence. Find out more about curriculum levels.

  • Play games with your child, helping them to understand that there are rules that everyone agrees to so that the game can be shared and is fun.
  • In the supermarket, encourage your child to help you push the trolley safely and collect the shopping items. Look for items that are on shelves or positioned so that your child has to stretch, bend or reach to pick up the items. Talk to your child about how they might use their body to reach for these items. For example, 'You will have to go on your tip toes to reach the red apples' or 'Can you pick the milk carton up with your left/right hand only?'
  • Make sure your child has the opportunity to play outdoors every day. Talk about the clothes that are most appropriate for the weather and help them to develop a positive attitude towards playing outside whatever the weather.
  • Do some balancing and stretching exercises together. Have a challenge to see who can do the funniest balance on one leg/scrunch up to be the smallest/stretch out to be the tallest. Keep the balloon up in the air together, taking turns to hit it back and forwards using hands, feet or heads.
  • Set up an obstacle course in the garden/sitting room/hallway.
  • Have races in the house against each other, balancing cushions on your head, hopping from one room to another without touching certain colours of the carpet or parts of the floor.

First/Second level (primary)

  • Take your child out on their bike – on the way to the park talk to them about road safety, and in the park talk to them about avoiding other park users when cycling.
  • In the garden, teach your child how to skip with a single rope, and then how to skip with a rope held by other members of the family.
  • Encourage your child to learn to juggle with small, soft balls; first with one ball, then with two.
  • In the garden have an 'Olympic/Commonwealth games' competition with your child, featuring different events like long-jump, high jump, sprinting, the marathon race – things you can do in the garden.
  • Playing in the house, teach your child to 'hula-hoop' and count the number of rotations that can be accomplished.

Third/Fourth level (S1-S3)

  • Encourage your child to get active by making a programme of daily exercise like running or cycling. This can be supported by research to find out what the record is, and who the world record holder is for a variety of distances.

Senior phase/post-16

  • Encourage your child to try and be active on a daily basis.
  • Try to be a good role model. Try out a new activity together at home and have fun!

Related links

Play and learn - This website helps promote health and brain development by offering advice and ideas for interacting with very young children.

Play Scotland - Organisation whose work promotes children's and young people's right to play.

Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Action Plan - The Scottish Government action plan acknowledges the vital role of parents and carers in encouraging and facilitating play.

Physical education, physical activity and sport resources to support teachers/education practitioners can be found on the National Improvement Hub.