24 tips for meeting the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for kids
When it comes to the health and happiness of your child, every hour matters.
For optimal health, each day needs to be filled with the right amounts of sweating, stepping, sleeping, and sitting.
A typical day should include:
- At least one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (sweating)
- Several hours of structured and unstructured light activities (stepping)
- 9 to 11 hours of sleep for children 5-13 years and 8 to 10 for those 14-17 years (sleeping)
- No more than two hours of recreational screen time with frequent breaks to avoid sitting for prolonged uninterrupted periods (sitting)
Kids who achieve the right balance tend to do better in school, maintain healthier body weights, and learn new skills. Over time, they have higher self-esteem, stronger muscles, and more fun playing with friends. To be frank, they’re happier and healthier than kids who don’t.
While paying attention to every hour might sound overwhelming at first, don’t worry, we’ve got 24 tips to help!
- Get your kids up at the same time each day. Consistency is key to building good sleep habits.
- Sing and stretch along to “Head and Shoulders.” It’s a great way to start the day.
- Get your kids dressed in clothes they can easily move in and that you don’t mind getting dirty. You can play baseball or collect rocks in a dress, and running shoes go with everything.
- Keep screens off in the morning. If screens become routine, the minutes really add up quickly.
- Be firm and consistent about expectations. If kids know they will never, ever watch a show before school, they will never, ever ask.
- Make breakfast and lunch prep a family activity. This ensures your kids will be standing and moving around the kitchen rather than sitting down somewhere staring at a screen.
- Walk, cycle, or scooter to school. If it’s too far, consider parking your car before reaching the school and walking the remaining distance together, rather than driving the entire way. If you live in a rural area, consider getting your kids ready early so they have time to play before catching the bus.
- Show them how it's done. If you start your day by riding your bike to work and not checking your email until you get there, then that becomes part of what’s normal for your family.
- At school, ask your child’s teacher what they’re doing to break up sitting time. Frequent activity breaks can help kids learn!
- Make sure your child is well-equipped and feels encouraged to take advantage of lunch and recess to enjoy some sunshine, get active, and have some fun.
- Encourage your kids to walk, cycle, or scooter home, or do so with them. If your child rides the bus, encourage them to play outside for a while before coming in the house.
- Consider enrolling your child in an after-school program that involves heart-pumping physical activity.
- On weekends, take a step back and really let your kids run loose at the park, in the yard, or in the basement. They will make their own fun and figure out something interesting to do. Let their imagination (and bodies) run wild!
- Take an active break from homework and get outside. Kick a ball, shoot some hoops, jump rope, whatever.
- Throughout the day, swap screen time for light activity whenever possible. A walk is always better than watching a television show.
- Pay attention to what your children enjoy or gravitate to. If your kid likes kicking balls or has rhythm or loves hockey, nurture that interest and they'll be more likely to enjoy being active for life.
- Let your kids get bored and figure out non-screen ways to entertain themselves.
- Try washing dinner dishes by hand as a family instead of using the dishwasher. It’s a great way to get everyone on their feet, leaves time for talking, and increases family bonding.
- Establish regular screen time limits. For example, limit your kids to a single 30-minute show each night during the week and stick to it.
- Go outside after dinner instead of sitting down to watch television.
- An hour before bedtime, kids should shut off screens, avoid heavy meals and caffeinated beverages, and enjoy a non-screen activity like reading a book, colouring, or journaling.
- Once in a while, take a minute to explain to your kids that if they’re tired from a day of activity they’ll sleep better, and if they don't get enough sleep they’ll be too tired to play the next day.
- A warm shower or bath before bed is a great way for kids to relax and unwind before getting tucked in.
- Get to bed at the same time each night (even on weekends if possible!).