Baby's First Year · Parenting

Physical activity & children: What’s the connection?

Happy toddler running

Being physically active is important at any age. The early years (0-4 years old) is an important time to create healthy behaviour and patterns that your child will build on as they grow. Every little bit counts, but, more is better, at every age.

We can encourage children to be active for life through developing their physical literacy which includes movement, sleep, and sedentary routines.

Consider replacing sedentary screen time with additional energetic play, and trading indoor for outdoor time, which can provide great health benefits

Infants (birth to 1 yr olds):

Infants (including those not yet mobile) can start to be physically active and need 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day, along with good quality sleep (at least 12-16 hours) and naps. Keep in mind, infants should only be in a restraint (i.e. car seat or stroller) for no more than 1 hour at a time every day. A couple great activities you can do with baby are reading or storytelling.

Toddlers (1-2 yr olds):

Toddlers need at least 180 minutes of physical activity throughout the day and at least 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps. Keep the activity fun, with purpose, combine movement, and keep the activities progressive and challenging. They love to keep moving!

No screen time is recommended for those younger than two years of age. Reading, storytelling are much better alternatives for your child to be actively engaged.

Preschoolers (3-4 yr olds):

Preschoolers also need at least 180 minutes in a variety of physical activities spread throughout the day. The difference is that 60 minutes of this time is energetic play. They also need 10-13 hours of good quality sleep and screen time should be less than 1 hour.

Research shows that young children spend an average of 7.5 hours daily being sedentary; only 15% meet the guidelines for less than one hour of screen time per day.

Take a look at the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years: Ages 0-4 for more info and learn how much physical activity is necessary for optimum growth and development.

Remember, for healthy growth and development, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers should achieve the recommended balance of physical activity, high – quality sedentary behaviour and sufficient sleep.

Keep your infant, toddler and children physically active. Be a role model. Share how you and your child keep an active lifestyle, by commenting below.

For more info, eChat with a Public Health Nurse or call (416) 338-7600.

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