Toddlers don't like to sit still. They wriggle from your grasp and want to be free. That's tiring for parents, but very good for kids. Toddlers naturally enjoy doing what is healthiest for them — being as active as possible.
Experts say that kids between 12 to 36 months old should get at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity (adult-led) and at least 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity (free play) every day. And toddlers shouldn't be inactive for more than 1 hour at a time, except when they're sleeping.
You're in the driver's seat when you're with your child. To limit sedentary time, don't let your toddler spend too much time in strollers, car seats, and high chairs. All these can keep kids from being active enough.
Limiting TV time is another good way to keep kids physically active. TV watching, including videos and DVDs, is not recommended at all for kids under age 2. Those guidelines relax for older toddlers, but kids don't need to watch any TV. Even educational programs aren't as enriching as real-life activities, such as figuring out how a toy works, playing games, or singing songs together.
If you choose to allow some TV time for your older toddler, try to follow this guideline: No more than 1 to 2 hours of quality children's programming per day. Another option is age-appropriate videos, especially those that invite kids to play along.
Here are some tips for keeping toddlers active:
|Adult-Led Activity||Free Play|
Younger Toddlers (12-24 months)
Older Toddlers (24-36 months)
If your toddler spends time with a caregiver or at a childcare center, it's important to investigate how much activity the kids get:
Another option is a playgroup, which is a great way to get kids together for some active time. A playgroup is also a welcome change of pace for stay-at-home parents, who benefit from the social time with other moms and dads. The parents could plan some time for structured group activities, such as playing a game, and let the kids do their own thing for some of the time. Meeting at a playground or large, indoor space is ideal.
If you've ever seen a group of toddlers playing, you may have noticed that they don't seem to be interacting as much as older kids do. Still, be assured they enjoy this time together. Eventually, they will start playing in more cooperative ways.
Wherever a toddler is being active, the play area must be safe. At home, use gates and other safety equipment to make at least one room in the house safe enough for a toddler to explore. Away from home, look for childcare facilities and playgrounds that have newer, age-appropriate equipment that's not too big or challenging for your toddler. Also, ask about whether kids are separated by age — a practice that helps prevent injuries.
But no matter how "safe" the environment, there's no substitute for supervision. Many toddlers seem to subscribe to the "no fear" philosophy and may climb to the top of the monkey bars without reservation.
Close supervision is important because even though toddlers show improving skills, they lack sufficient balance, coordination, and judgment. In other words, keep a close eye and be there to catch them!
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2014
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|Zero to Three Zero to Three is a national nonprofit organization that promotes the health and development of infants and toddlers.|
|Let's Move! Let's Move! is dedicated to solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.|
|Movement, Coordination, and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old Most toddlers this age are walking and gaining even more control over their hands and fingers. Give your child lots of fun (and safe) things to do to encourage this development.|
|Medical Care and Your 2- to 3-Year-Old Regular well-child exams are essential to keeping kids healthy and up-to-date with immunizations against dangerous diseases. Here's what to expect at the doctor's office.|
|Communication and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old Your toddler is probably saying a few first words now, but you may not be able to understand them all. Learn about how your child is communicating.|
|The Senses and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old Toddlers learn through sights, sounds, tastes, and textures that are all new. How can you stimulate your child's senses and provide a safe place to explore?|
|Fitness and Your 2- to 3-Year-Old Kids this age are naturally active, so be sure to provide lots of opportunities for your child to practice basic skills, such as running, kicking, and throwing.|
|Communication and Your 2- to 3-Year-Old Communicating with a child is one of the most pleasurable and rewarding experiences for both parent and child. Learn how to connect with your 2- to 3-year-old.|
|Choosing Safe Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers How can you tell if a small toy poses a choking risk? What types of unsafe toys should you avoid for your baby, toddler, or preschooler? Find out here.|
|Games for Toddlers Though toddlers will more often play alongside their friends instead of with them, they'll enjoy group games and can begin learning important lessons from them.|
|Toddlers: Learning by Playing It might look like just child's play, but toddlers are hard at work learning important physical skills as they gain muscle control, balance, and coordination.|
|Growth and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old You're in for a year of changes! Midway through this year, most babies are walking and starting to lose that "baby" look.|
|Growth and Your 2- to 3-Year-Old During the third year of life, toddlers are extremely active and mobile, and are learning in very physical ways.|
|Safe Exploring for Toddlers Toddlers are learning to talk, to walk and run, and to assert their independence. For many in this age group, "outside" and "play" are common requests.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.