Being physically active every day may help young children improve movement skills, have fun and be happy, develop self-confidence, and improve learning and attention.
The Canadian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines state that, for healthy growth and development, infants (less than one year old) should be active several times daily. Being active as an infant means:
- Tummy time
- Reaching for or grasping balls or other toys
- Playing or rolling on the floor
Toddlers, aged one to two years and preschoolers aged three to four years should accumulate at least 180 minutes (three hours) of activity spread throughout the day. Being active as a toddler or preschooler means:
- Any activity that gets them moving
- Climbing stairs and moving around the home
- Playing outside and exploring their environment
- Crawling, brisk walking, running or dancing
- The older children get, the more energetic play they need such as hopping, jumping, skipping and bike riding.
You can help young children to move more by:
- Creating safe spaces for play
- Playing music and doing action songs together
- Dressing for the weather and exploring the outdoors
- Making time for free play
- Walking or biking instead of taking the car
Spending less time being sedentary is also important and can help young children develop social skills, behave better and improve language skills.
Sedentary behaviours are those that involve very little physical movement while children are awake, such as:
- Sitting or reclining in a stroller, high chair or car seat
- Watching television
- Playing with video games, tablets, computers or smart phones
The Canadian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines state that, for healthy growth and development, parents and caregivers should minimize the time infants, toddlers and preschoolers spend being sedentary during waking hours. For those under two years, screen time (television, computer, electronic games) is not recommended. For two to four year olds, screen time should be limited to less than one hour per day.
You can help young children be less sedentary by:
- Limiting the use of playpens and infant seats
- Exploring and playing with your child
- Setting limits and rules for screen time
- Keeping televisions and computers out of bedrooms
- Taking them outside every day
When children are active during the day and spend less time being sedentary, they are able to have a more restful night’s sleep. The guidelines for sleep requirements in a 24 hour period including naps are outlined below.
- Infants (up to three months) – 14 to 17 hours
- Infants (four to eleven months) – 12 to 16 hours
- Toddlers (one to two years) – 11 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers (three to four years) – 10 to 13 years