The Early Years Age 0–4

Benefits & Guidelines

Regular physical activity is an essential part of early childhood growth and development. Plus, getting active with your child sets a great example of healthy habits that are more likely to stick for life.

Guidelines

Physical Activity Guidelines

  • Infants (aged less than 1 year) should be physically active several times daily – particularly through interactive floor-based play.
  • Toddlers (aged 1-2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3-4 years) should accumulate at least 180 minutes of physical activity at any intensity spread throughout the day, including:
    1. A variety of activities in different environments;
    2. Activities that develop movement skills;
    3. Progression toward at least 60 minutes of energetic play by 5 years of age;
  • More daily physical activity provides greater benefits.

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What Counts as “Being Active”?

The early years are a period of rapid growth and development, when movement naturally happens at a variety of intensities and in short bursts, such as:

  • Tummy time
     
  • Reaching for or grasping balls or other toys, pushingand pulling, and crawling

Toddlers (aged 1-2) and preschoolers (aged 3-4) should participate in physical activities that take place in different environments and develop movement skills, such as:

  • Any activity that gets kids moving
  • Climbing stairs and moving around the home
  • Playing outside and exploring the environment
  • Crawling, brisk walking, running or dancing

Guidelines

Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines

  • For healthy growth and development, caregivers should minimize the time infants (aged less than 1 year), toddlers (aged 1-2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3-4 years) spend being sedentary during waking hours. This includes prolonged sitting or being restrained (e.g., stroller, high chair) for more than one hour at a time.
    1. For those under 2 years, screen time (e.g., TV, computer, electronic games) is not recommended.
    2. For children 2-4 years, screen time should be limited to under one hour per day; less is better.
  • More daily physical activity provides greater benefits.

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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
  • Screen time such as watching television or playing with non-active electronic devices including video games, tablets, computers or phones

To reduce young children’s sedentary time, parents and caregivers can:

  • Limit use of playpens and infant seats when baby is awake
  • Explore and play with your child
  • Stop during long car trips for playtime
  • Set limits and have rules about screen time
  • Keep TVs and computers out of bedrooms
  • Take children outside every day

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What Are the Proven Benefits?

Being active several times a day as an infant (less than one year) and for at least 180 minutes throughout the day from age one to four years, and less time being sedentary, can help young kids:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Improve movement skills
  • Increase fitness
  • Build healthy hearts
  • Have fun and feel happy
  • Behave better
  • Develop self-confidence and social skills
  • Improve learning, attention and language skills