As with all good habits, it’s easier to encourage our children to practice them by starting them young and making good habits such a part of their daily routine that they will naturally carry it throughout their lives.
And when we say young, we mean young. There is no reason why we can’t, and every reason we should, develop an “exercise” routine with our toddlers.
The Importance of Establishing Exercise Early
There are so many reasons to get and keep our toddlers moving, which at this age, simply means playing actively.
Fortunately, for these tykes, active play is honestly a natural instinct – it’s when we introduce too much TV or gadget time that we interfere with what they would do naturally to help their little bodies grow and be strong and healthy.
But the good news is, you shouldn’t have to work too hard to “get” them moving – it’s just a matter of encouraging it and turning it into a habit.
- Developing stronger bones and muscles
- Having a leaner and healthier body
- Being less likely to struggle with obesity, a condition that could lead to other health problems
- Having lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Decreasing the risk of getting type 2 diabetes
- Possessing a better outlook
- Having better self-esteem and confidence
So, don’t just think about the right now when you think about developing exercise routines for your toddler – think about how this is going to go a long way in creating a physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy adult who has good habits already established.
Some Quick Guidelines
When we say “exercise routine,” we know some of you thought about your 30 minutes of cardio and your weight lifting routine (or the one you wish you had time for).
But that’s definitely not what we mean for your toddler. Fortunately, “exercise” for your toddler is extremely easy to achieve. Everything from playing on playground equipment, running, hopping, jumping, going for walks, playing games that keep them moving, all count as active play and exercise.
Here are some helpful guidelines suggested by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education for healthy physical activity for your toddler:
Toddler’s should get 30 minutes of structured (adult led) physical activity a day.
This could be going for a walk, playing a game, riding appropriate toddler scooters or bicycles – any activity that is led by a parent or care-giver specifically for physical exercise.
Toddler’s should also have at least one hour of unstructured physical play per day.
This is a minimum – you can and should absolutely encourage more. This includes free-play in the backyard or on the play-ground, dancing to music, playing with a push or pull toy, creating indoor obstacle courses, etc. Get creative – basically any play that keeps those little arms and legs moving.
Other than during sleep, toddlers should not be sedentary for more than an hour at a time.
This means they should not be sitting in front of a TV, sitting playing with a device or specific toy, or even sitting and playing with a craft item for more than an hour.
Toddler’s should get the opportunity to practice and develop various gross (larger) motor skills.
Provide your toddler with opportunities to climb, ride a bicycle, kick a ball, etc.
Toddler’s need access to both indoor and outdoor safe areas that allow them to practice large-muscle activities.
If you do not have a safe, fenced-in yard or play-ground in your yard or nearby, or if certain times of year do not permit outdoor activity due to weather, you can look up indoor playgrounds in your area. Some may require an entry fee while some may be free, and some can be quite large and allow running, climbing, and fantastic exercise opportunities.
Odds are, your toddler already engages in plenty of active play. Now the next step is to start creating a deliberate routine for it, especially for the part where you get to play the important and exciting role of leading them in some healthy exercise.
The gift you will give to your child by establishing these routines and habits early will stay with them the rest of their lives, helping them become healthy and strong in every way possible.
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