How active play encourages healthy growth in your toddler
Regular, consistent daily activity is important for your toddler’s growth and development. Physical play, both indoors and outdoors, gives her the chance to discover the world, develop her motor skills, and stay healthy. According to recent research, being active regularly, and only staying still for short periods of time, may also help prevent her from becoming overweight in the future.
However, a recent study found that only one in five two-year-olds plays outdoors every day when at home. Research has also shown that two-year-old toddlers spend most of their time (around 85%) in idle activities that do not require much movement. As a result they are failing to meet the activity guidelines for toddlers.
Time for play
The only time your toddler should be inactive for more than one hour is when she’s asleep. Several countries recommend three hours of physical activity for toddlers each day. This activity should be spread throughout the day. For toddlers who are walking, it includes “light” activities such as standing, moving, and rolling, and more energetic things such as skipping, hopping, running, and jumping.
Scientists have revealed that the type of play equipment your child uses may influence her activity level. When young children have access to adequate space and appropriate equipment, they are able to be more active. If they spend most of their time indoors, or only play with toys such as swings and riding toys, they end up being less active. Now that your little one is likely to be more confident on her feet, encourage her to play on jumping equipment and with games marked out on the floor, such as hopscotch, in addition to the usual swings and slides.
Staying active together
You are your toddler’s role model so enjoy being active together. It doesn’t have to involve expensive equipment. One recent study showed the importance of getting outdoors—think running down hills, playing in the grass, or simply walking instead of sitting in the stroller.
If you think your toddler is spending too much time sitting still, now is the time to make changes to her daily routine. Between 18 and 24 months of age is a good time to take action and increase your toddler’s activity levels. Evidence suggests there is a link between sedentary behaviors in early childhood and being overweight at school age, so get outdoors, get moving, and stay healthy.
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Kuzik N and Carson V. The association between physical activity, sedentary behavior, sleep, and body mass index z-scores in different settings among toddlers and preschoolers. BMC Pediatr 2016; 16:100. doi: 10.1186/s12887-016-0642-6.