Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 9: Administration

9.2 Policies

9.2.3 Health Policies Policies and Practices that Promote Physical Activity

Content in the Standard was modified on 08/25/2016 and 05/30/2018.

The facility should have written policies for the promotion of indoor and outdoor physical activity and the removal of potential barriers to physical activity participation. Policies should cover the following areas:

     a. Benefits: benefits of physical activity and outdoor play.

     b. Duration: Children will spend 60 to 120 minutes each day outdoors depending on their age, weather permitting. Policies will describe what will be done to ensure physical activity

         and provisions for gross motor activities indoors on days with more extreme conditions (ie, very wet, very hot, or very cold).

     c. Type: Structured (caregiver/teacher-initiated) versus unstructured activity.

     d. Setting: provision of covered areas for shade and shelter on playgrounds, if feasible (1).

     e. Clothing: Clothing should protect children from sun exposure and permit easy movement (not too loose and not too tight) that enables full participation in active play; footwear

         should provide support for running and climbing. Hats and sunglasses should be worn to protect children from sun exposure. 

Examples of appropriate clothing/footwear include:

     a. Gym shoes or sturdy gym shoe equivalent.

     b. Clothes for the weather, including heavy coat, hat, and mittens in the winter/snow; raincoat and boots for the rain; and layered clothes for climates in which the temperature can

         vary dramatically on a daily basis. Lightweight, breathable clothing, without any hood and neck strings, should be worn when temperatures are hot to protect children from sun


Examples of inappropriate clothing/footwear include:

     a. Footwear that can come off while running or that provides insufficient support for climbing (2)

     b. Clothing that can catch on playground equipment (eg, those with drawstrings or loops)

If children wear “dress clothes” or special outfits that cannot be easily laundered, caregivers/teachers should talk with the children’s parents/guardians about the program’s goals in providing physical activity during the program day and encourage them to provide a set of clothes that can be used during physical activities.

Facilities should discuss the importance of this policy with parents/guardians on enrollment and periodically thereafter.


If appropriately dressed, children can safely play outdoors in most weather conditions. Children can learn math, science, and language concepts through games involving movement (3,4).

Having a policy on outdoor physical activity that will take place on days when there are adverse weather conditions informs all caregivers/teachers and families about the facility’s expectations. The policy can make clear that outdoor activity may require special clothing in colder weather or arrangements for cooling off when it is warm. By having such a policy, the facility encourages caregivers/teachers and families to anticipate and prepare for outdoor activity when cold, hot, or wet weather prevails.

The inappropriate dress of a child is often a barrier in reaching recommended amounts of physical activity in child care centers. Sometimes, children cannot participate in physical activity because of their inappropriate clothes. Caregivers/teachers can be helpful by having extra clean clothing on hand (5). Children can play in the rain and snow and in low temperatures when wearing clothing that keeps them dry and warm. When it is very warm, children can play outdoors, if they play in shady areas, and wear sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, and insect repellent, if necessary (6). Caregivers/teachers should have water available for children to mist, sprinkle, and drink while in warmer weather.


For assistance in creating and writing physical activity policies, Nemours provides several resources and best practice advice on program implementation. Information is available at

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Active Opportunities for Physical Activity Playing Outdoors Caregivers’/Teachers’ Encouragement of Physical Activity Sun Safety Including Sunscreen Insect Repellent and Protection from Vector-Borne Diseases Strangulation Hazards Indoor and Outdoor Equipment, Materials, and Furnishing Size and Requirements of Indoor Play Area Policy on Use and Maintenance of Play Areas
Appendix S: Physical Activity: How Much Is Needed?
  1. Weinberger N, Butler, AG, Schumacher P. Looking inside and out: perceptions of physical activity in childcare spaces. Early Child Development and Care. 2014;184(2):194-210

  2. Tandon PS, Walters KM, Igoe BM, Payne EC, Johnson DB. Physical activity practices, policies and environments in Washington state child care settings: results of a statewide survey. Matern Child Health J. 2017;21(3):571–582

  3. Bento G, Dias G. The importance of outdoor play for young children’s healthy development. Porto Biomed J. 2017;2(5):157–160. Accessed January 11, 2018

  4. Jayasuriya A, Williams M, Edwards T, Tandon P. Parents’ perceptions of preschool activities: exploring outdoor play. Early Educ Dev. 2016;27(7):1004–1017

  5. Henderson KE, Grode GM, O’Connell ML, Schwartz MB. Environmental factors associated with physical activity in childcare centers. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2015;12:43

  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. Choosing an insect repellent for your child. Web site. Updated March 1, 2017. Accessed January 11, 2018


Content in the Standard was modified on 08/25/2016 and 05/30/2018.