How Physically Active should Your Child be?
Date Posted:11 October 2019
Regular physical activity is recommended for all people to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Obviously, making time to consistently exercise and be active is easier said than done, especially when considering the list of responsibilities a parent has. It can be easy to let the importance of being active slide down that list of priorities.
We’ve been researching the reasons as to why so much importance is placed on physical play and would love to use this post to help you as parents understand and encourage your children to engage in as much physical play as possible.
Building Good Habits
The key to understanding why physical play is encouraged for children as early as possible comes from the fact that:
The first 5 years are the most important in terms of growth and development.
By exposing children to the importance of being active, you are training their subconscious mind to accept and carry forward healthy habits into adulthood. As carers and educators, we see it as our responsibility to assist parents in providing children with opportunities to engage in active play experiences.
Let's break it down to simplicity – what are the benefits of regular physical activity?
- Healthy growth and development
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Reduced risk of weight-related diseases
- Increased heart, muscle and bone health
- Learning fundamental physical movement skills
- Developing balance, coordination and reactiveness
- Increased mental wellbeing
- Improved social skills, self-esteem and confidence
The above points are all things that most people pretty much know already without needing to be taught. The question then becomes, why have we as a society started to shy away from physical play?
Here are some of our ideas:
Obviously technology plays a big part in the slow but steady shift from active to passive play. That’s not to say that technological play doesn’t have any benefit, however, it is pretty clear that in the first 5 years of life, physical play should be engaged in a lot more frequently.
Unfortunately trying to fit in active play with kids can sometimes be a trying task, especially at the end of a long working day when you as a parent needs a break yourself. We understand the challenges of raising a family in addition to the stresses of everyday life. It can be easy to let the TV, iPads and iPhones act as a substitute for real, active play because of how well they engage (distract) children.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, we are not advocating for the separation of technology from children. What we are doing is spreading awareness of the fact that this ‘tech-age’ that we are currently living in is still relatively young. There hasn’t been enough time to effectively monitor and track the full effects that heavy use of technology has had on us as people. What we do know is that technology has definitely had an impact on us, we just don’t know the extent of the impact on the next generation.
It is extremely important to regulate and balance the time spent watching tv and playing games on digital devices. Our advice would be to heavily favour active play wherever possible when choosing activities to engage in with your child.
How physically active should kids be?
After doing some research, we’ve summarised a guide from the ACT Health Department to help parents determine how physically active their children should be:
Babies (1 year and under)
Babies should be engaged actively multiple times a day. An example would be that for babies who are not yet mobile, try to let them play on their tummy for at least half an hour throughout the day. This will help them to develop and start using those little muscles so that soon they’ll be off and running!
In regards to sedentary behaviour, the recommendation is to not exceed 1 hour of time in restraints (pram, car seat, high chairs, etc.). All forms of screen time are discouraged at this age!
Finally, the importance of good quality sleep also plays a factor in how physically active your kids should be. For babies between 0-3 months, the recommendation is 14-17 hours of sleep including naps. For babies aged 4-11 months, the recommendation is 12-16 hours.
Toddlers (1 – 2 years)
The terrible 2’s! Toddlers are such lovely little bundles of energy that it sometimes feels like a challenge to keep finding new activities for them to play and experience. The health department recommends at least 3 hours of various physical activity for toddlers throughout the day.
In regard to sedentary behaviour, the same recommendation is given as above – try to avoid placing children in tight seats for more than 1 hour. Similarly, screen time is not recommended, however if your child is above the age of 2, then a maximum of 1 hour can be allocated per day.
Sleep is easy for toddlers, try to aim for 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps taken throughout the day. Try to help your children understand the importance of sleep and take the opportunity to get them interested in bedtime stories!
Preschoolers (3-5 years)
Pre-schoolers are recommended to engage in at least 1 hour of mild to intense physical activity per day. The types of activities recommended are games or exercises that involve aerobic activities. Aerobic exercise is a type of rhythmic activity that uses large muscle groups and is sustainable for at least 10 minutes. Additionally, pre-schoolers should participate in several hours of light physical activity with exercises that strengthen muscle and bone 2-3 times per week.
In regard to screen time, the recommendation is to limit sedentary recreational time to a maximum of 2 hours per day, and it is encouraged that long periods of inactivity should be broken up as often as possible.
To finish off, try to ensure that preschoolers are getting 10-13 hours of good quality sleep including naps. It’s recommended that consistent sleep and wake-up times be enforced to help your children establish a healthy sleeping pattern.
We hope this week’s post has given you some valuable information that you can use to benefit both you and your child. We know that it can seem like an impossible task to find the time to exercise while juggling all of your other responsibilities. Our advice is to find a fun game that you can play with your children! It will allow you to be active while teaching your children to enjoy exercise and build up good habits.
For more informative articles, stay tuned to our blog page!
- ACT Government Health. (2019). Benefits of regular physical activity (Link)
- Smith, Hannah B. (2014). "The impact of digital and physical play on early childhood development". Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders Undergraduate Honors Theses. 24. (Link)