Children from The Kindiclub Preschool and Kariong Childcare Centre have been showing off their soccer skills with the Central Coast Mariners as part of an initiative to get kids active.

The A-League team visited the early childhood services to give out prizes and take part in outdoor games with the children.

The visits capped off this year’s Move like a Mariner program, which teaches fundamental movement skills to children aged three to five years old.

The six-week program sees early childhood educators on the Coast provided with resources and take part in an interactive workshop to increase their confidence to teach these crucial developmental skills in fun and engaging ways.

More than 3,300 children from 53 early childhood education and care services on the Central Coast took part in the program this year.

In 2023, the program was expanded to not only teach children to move like their favourite Mariners players, but also learn about healthy snacking and the importance of drinking water.

Move like a Mariner is a joint initiative between Central Coast Local Health District’s Health Promotion Service and Central Coast Mariners.

All services who take part in the program receive an equipment kit with a variety of resources including a set of balls, cones and goals. Two lucky services also received additional prizes, with Kariong Childcare Centre winning a visit from two Mariners stars and The Kindiclub Preschool winning a visit from the entire team.

Irena Petrikova, director at The Kindiclub Preschool, said the visit has created a lifetime of memories for the children.

“We’re so grateful to Central Coast Health and the Central Coast Mariners for organising this visit. There were so many smiles on the children’s faces – it has created a lifetime of memories for them.

“The Move like a Mariner program has been so easy to implement, and the children and their families have really loved it too.

“The educator workshop gave us some great ideas to help make teaching fundamental movement skills really engaging. Now, with any sort of physical activity we do, we identify with the children what skill they’re learning. It’s become part of the daily routine.”

Since 2018, the Move like a Mariner program has run four times and has provided sporting equipment and teaching resources to 108 early childhood services, around three-quarters (72%) of services on the Central Coast, and reaching more than 9,000 children. Services who have taken part have reported a 30% increase in daily fundamental movement skill teaching.

The program is delivered in parallel with the NSW Health Munch & Move initiative that promotes the importance of healthy eating, physical activity, and reduced screen time for young children.

Jasmin Wing, health promotion officer at Central Coast Local Health District, said the program continues to go from strength to strength.

“This year was our largest Move like a Mariner program ever, with more children taking part than ever before, including 27 early childhood services taking part for the first time,” Jasmin said.

“It’s popularity really stems from its ability to provide a fun and engaging way for children to learn vital movement skills that get them active and into healthy habits early in their development.

“The program was very timely this year, coinciding with the Matildas fantastic run to the World Cup semi-final. We saw some fabulous photos of children and centres decorated out in in green and gold to cheer on the team.

“We also introduced new elements to the program this year, such as snack and sip like a Mariner, which included videos of Mariners players helping promote the importance of healthy eating and choosing water.

“We’ve had some fantastic feedback from services who took part, many of whom have said they will continue to play the games even though the program has finished.”