Regular physical activity is the best way to help your toddler stay at a healthy weight. Physical activity is also a way for your toddler to play, have fun, and develop physically, socially, and emotionally. For more information on play and child development, click here.
Some of the other benefits of physical activity are:
- Better overall health
- More energy
- Improved fitness
- Stronger muscles and bones
- Better posture
- Improved self‑esteem
- Less stress
Physically active toddlers are happier and healthier. Your toddler needs at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day to help build strong bones, muscles, heart, and lungs. Physically active children are much less likely to become overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese is a serious health concern for both adults and children in Canada, but it is especially serious in children.
Healthy Childhood Weight
Researchers have found that overweight toddlers don’t usually lose their excess weight as they grow up. Children who were overweight at 24 months were found to be much more likely to be overweight at 12 years than were normal‑weight children of the same age.
Helping Your Toddler Be Physically Active
You can get your toddler off to a good start by being active yourself for at least 30 minutes every day. Try a variety of activities and make them fun. Joining with other families is one of the best ways to have fun while being active.
A good way to keep your toddler active is to turn off the TV and computer and get outside. Limit his TV watching to no more than one hour a day—better yet, none at all.
Unless your toddler is sleeping, your toddler should not be sitting still for more than 60 minutes at a time. Notice how much time your toddler spends sitting or lying and look for ways to help him or her be active. Encourage your toddler’s natural need to move, play, run, jump, climb, and explore.
Overweight or Obese Children
In Canada, the percentage of children who are overweight or obese has more than doubled in the past 20 years. About a third of Canadian children are overweight, and about half of these children are considered obese.
Ways to help you toddler enjoy being active at 6‑12 months:
- Put some toys just out of reach so your toddler has to work to move toward them.
- Hold and rock your toddler.
- Play physical games (“peekaboo“ and “Patty Cake”).
- Encourage your toddler to crawl, roll, and explore in safe spaces, either indoors or outdoors.
- Choose toys that promote physical activity.
Ways to help your toddler enjoy being active at 12‑36 months:
- Do activities with your toddler. Go outside and explore. Throw a ball, chase bubbles, or play at the park.
- Turn off the TV and other interactive media and get your toddler moving. Limit the time your toddler spends in front of the TV and other media to one hour or less per day—or better yet, none at all.
- Go to a park and teach your toddler to use the slides, swings, and climbing equipment.
- Teach your toddler basic sports skills (throwing and catching a ball and jumping).
- Include your toddler in daily activities that are physically active (walking to the store, cleaning the house, washing the car, or gardening).
- Whenever possible, get your toddler out of the stroller and have her or him walk with you. Your toddler is not active while in the stroller.
- Check with your local recreation centre or public health office about activities that your toddler might be able to join (swimming, gymnastics, dance, and others).
For more suggestions, see Leap BC's guide Move with Me from Birth to Three.
For more information on helping your 2+ year old toddler play actively, see the printable pamphlet: Active Play to Promote Healthy Weights in Children 2‑5 Years Old.