Most toddlers don’t need any encouragement to exercise. More often it’s a case of trying to stop them moving for a split-second so that you can re-tie their shoelace or put a hat back on their head. It’s quite normal for kids aged 1–3 to be, quite literally, bouncing off the walls, furniture, and even the household pet as they learn to run, jump, bounce and climb. There are so many benefits of exercise and movement for toddlers, and if you are worried that your child isn’t getting enough exercise, then consider the guidelines below in this article. Here we explore why daily exercise for toddlers is so important, and how to prevent them from becoming couch potatoes.
Why is exercise important for toddlers?
Exercise and movement are vital to a toddler’s development. By exercising they learn how their body works, and their brain learns new skills—physical and intellectual. Exercise is also very important for a toddler’s general health and wellbeing.
It’s also more likely that if your child is active from a young age (and sees this as a natural and fun part of life), they are more likely to continue this behaviour in later years.
What forms of exercise should toddlers be able to do?
Every child develops at its own rate, and each will have its own unique abilities. But here are some general milestones to keep in mind.
By age 2
Most children can walk and run well by age 2. Many toddlers can also do things like kick a ball (although not really control where it goes) and jump up and down.
By age 3
Once kids reach age 3, they can usually kick a ball towards you, throw it, and catch it (with stiff arms). Most 3-year-olds can also balance on one foot, and ride a scooter or tricycle.
How much exercise should a toddler get each day?
Unless your child is sick, they should be exercising every day. Although, keep in mind that our concept of ‘exercise’ may be a little different to theirs. Adults often think of exercise as special time set aside to go the gym, run a few kilometers or play team sport. And while some structured exercise is good for toddlers, it’s quite normal for them to be ‘exercising’ as they do other things throughout the day. Sometimes they barely seem to stop!
However, if your toddler wants to sit or lie around all day, keep in mind these minimum suggested exercise times.
Every day your toddler should get:
- 30 min of structured exercise (led by an adult)
- 60 min of unstructured exercise (free-play time).
You should also keep an eye on how long they are sedentary (still) for periods at a time. It’s recommended that toddlers aren’t inactive for longer than an hour (unless asleep or sick.)
How can I encourage my toddler to exercise more?
There are many ways to encourage your toddler to be more active and avoid them becoming couch potatoes. The first step is to turn off all electronic devices such as TVs, smartphones and tablets, and shift your child’s focus to something else.
Regardless of the exercise itself, the most effective way to encourage your toddler to get up and get moving is for you to lead by example. You are likely your child’s hero, role model, and favourite plaything. So try to come up with some games that you and your child can play together.
How to avoid your toddler becoming a couch potato
If it’s a nice day outside, you could play a simple game of ‘catch’ with a ball. Or perhaps explore the backyard for fairies or pirate treasure.
If it’s wet or cold outside, indoor games are just as good. You don’t need expensive toys—you can come up with fun games with whatever you have. Try putting the couch cushions or pillows on the ground and jumping up and down on them. A game of ‘ring a rosy’ can also be fun. And, of course, kids never seem to tire of the old classic, ‘hide and seek’—which you don’t need any toys or props for at all!
TumbleTastics is perfect exercise for toddlers
If you’re looking for a fun, structured form of exercise for your toddler, TumbleTastics classes are the perfect solution. They’re a great opportunity for your child to learn and develop in a safe, relaxed, and social environment.
Find out more about our TumbleTastics classes for your toddler.