The Daily Mile with young children: guidance

Guidance for early learning and childcare managers and practitioners, and parents/carers.

The Daily Mile basic principles that apply to primary schools can apply equally well to Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings.

These can be summarised as 'every child, every day', based on the 'Four Fs': fun, friendship, fresh air and freedom.

Key elements include:

  • children running/jogging/walking/toddling for 15 minutes a day outside in the fresh air as part of a daily focus on health and wellbeing and physical activity. There is no requirement to complete a mile. The mile is derived from the approximate distance that the original Daily Mile pioneers at St Ninian's Primary School, Stirling, managed in 15 minutes
  • children taking responsibility and ownership for their Daily Mile, which means going at their own pace and deciding on whether to, and when to, run, jog, walk (or, in the case of many two year olds, toddle)
  • the teacher or other ELC practitioner/manager chooses when to do The Daily Mile, depending on what else is happening that day
  • the Daily Mile is physical activity and health and well-being in a social, outdoors context. It is not active play, physical education (PE) or outdoor learning, although participating in The Daily Mile can encourage curiosity and interest in outdoor environments in keeping with wider outdoor learning opportunities

General health and wellbeing benefits

Children and young people both within early years and primary school settings who take part in The Daily Mile can experience various health and wellbeing benefits and improved outcomes, including:

  • reduced anxiety and stress
  • improved cognition
  • improved fitness and energy levels
  • greater concentration levels in class
  • improved wider health outcomes
  • experience of being outdoors in all seasons/weather
  • lower levels of obesity/weight reduction
  • increased confidence and levels of happiness
  • improved relationships and reduced isolation
  • sense of achievement in improving their own fitness/stamina and sense of pride in participating
  • greater resilience and determination
  • greater spatial awareness
  • more highly developed motor skills

Specific advice for doing The Daily Mile in ELC settings

Although all children taking part benefit, including those with additional support needs, there are also some distinctions between ELC and primary school contexts worth bearing in mind.

Specifically within ELC settings:

  • there is an enhanced opportunity to link it to early nutrition - by children coming back in from their Daily Mile to a healthy snack/lunch and water for hydration
  • simple, child-pleasing ways to measure laps/distance etc can be useful and motivating, and bring in early literacy and numeracy skills. For example children can collect a sticker or unifix cube on every lap or circuit completed, use number rhymes and develop awareness of concepts such as shapes, colours, letters and numbers within the environment
  • being outdoors doing The Daily Mile can provide for further provocations for learning, for example about the natural world and physical environment
  • in keeping with the wider emphasis on independent, self-directed learning within early years, The Daily Mile encourages the children's 'self-care' and taking greater responsibility for their own health and wellbeing
  • starting at an early age, we are able to provide all children with the opportunity to develop their 'physical literacy' and improve body composition for the rest of their lives
  • doing The Daily Mile isn't restricted to ELC group settings – childminders can also get involved, as increasing numbers already are
  • starting The Daily Mile from age two or three onwards will give the nation's children a head start at a very important developmental stage in their lives

The science bit (adapted from the Daily Mile Foundation Booklet)

It is widely accepted that physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle are bad for our health. It leaves children at risk of developing a range of adverse medical conditions during childhood and beyond into adulthood. This contrasts with those children who are physically active: they will generally have better blood sugar regulation, improved bone density, less body fat, lower blood pressure and improved arterial development.

Evidence suggests that benefits go far beyond physical health. Regular physical activity, such as The Daily Mile, is essential for brain development, can help raise attainment and lead to improvements in social, mental and emotional health too, with participating children:

  • feeling that they are part of the group, building new relationships and developing existing friendships
  • showing improvements to their mood and having a greater sense of self-worth
  • feeling less anxious and being able to control their emotions better

Furthermore, large scale research carried out by the University of Stirling and University of Edinburgh, in conjunction with the BBC's 'Terrific Scientific' nationwide primary science project, indicates than children's attention and memory improves after exercise.

For further information, and to register an ELC service as a Daily Mile participant, please visit The Daily Mile Foundation website.


Scottish Government
Early Learning and Childcare Team
Children and Families Directorate
Area 2B South
Victoria Quay

Phone: 0300 244 4000

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