The Early Years Age 0–4

Benefits & Guidelines

As young children grow and develop they need to move, sleep and sit the right amounts each day to be healthy.

Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (0-4 years)

Infants (less than 1 year)

  • Move

    Being physically active several times in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play—more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day while awake.

  • Sleep

    14 to 17 hours (for those aged 0-3 months) or 12 to 16 hours (for those aged 4-11 months) of good-quality sleep, including naps.

  • Sit

    Not being restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., in a stroller or high chair). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in pursuits such as reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

Toddlers (1-2 years)

  • Move

    At least 180 minutes spent in a variety of physical activities at any intensity, including energetic play, spread throughout the day—more is better.

  • Sleep

    11 to 14 hours of good-quality sleep, including naps, with consistent bedtimes and wake-up times.

  • Sit

    Not being restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., in a stroller or high chair) or sitting for extended periods. For those younger than 2 years, sedentary screen time is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour—less is better. When sedentary, engaging in pursuits such as reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

Preschoolers (3-4 years)

  • Move

    At least 180 minutes spent in a variety of physical activities spread throughout the day, of which at least 60 minutes is energetic play—more is better.

  • Sleep

    10 to 13 hours of good-quality sleep, which may include a nap, with consistent bedtimes and wake-up times.

  • Sit

    Not being restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., in a stroller or car seat) or sitting for extended periods. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour—less is better. When sedentary, engaging in pursuits such as reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

Replacing time restrained or sedentary screen time with additional energetic play, and trading indoor for outdoor time, while preserving sufficient sleep, can provide greater health benefits.

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Why 24-Hour Guidelines?

All types of movement matter, and a balance of moving, sleeping and sitting is required for best health. Even if a child is getting enough physical activity in a day, the health benefits can be reduced by too little sleep, or too much sedentary behaviour—especially if that time is spent in front of screens. Here are some tips:

  • For infants, supervised activities could include reaching and grasping and crawling.
  • The older children get, the more energetic play they need.
  • For toddlers, energetic play could include running, dancing and playing outside.
  • For preschoolers, energetic play could include hopping, swimming and bike riding.
  • For healthy sleep, have a calming bedtime routine, go to bed and wake up the same time each day, and avoid screens before bed.

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What counts as "Sedentary Behaviour"?

Sedentary behaviours are those that involve very little physical movement while children are awake, such as:

  • Sitting or reclining for prolonged periods in a stroller, high chair, or car seat
  • Sedentary screen time such as watching television or playing with non-active electronic devices including video games, tablets, computers or phones

Although not all sedentary behaviour is harmful—like reading or storytelling with a caregiver—excessive screen time before age five is, as it’s linked with language delays, reduced attention and lower school readiness.

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What Are the Proven Benefits?

Following these guidelines through the early years is associated with:

  • Healthy growth
  • Better learning and thinking
  • Improved motor development
  • Higher fitness levels 
  • Increased quality of life
  • Reduced injuries
  • Fun!
Partners & Funders

The development of these guidelines would not be possible without a dedicated group of partners and funders.