Tummy time. The bane of many a baby’s existence. Mine would cry within seconds of putting them on their tummies. I would quickly feel bad for them and pick them up. I felt so torn between letting them cry doing something I know is good for their development and comforting them.
Why do we recommend tummy time anyway? Aside from the prevention of a flat head, tummy time is helpful for learning how to roll and eventually crawl. It is all part of the process of developing something called physical literacy. These are the physical skills we want children to learn similar to how we want them to learn to read.
Physical literacy has a greater purpose of helping children with balance and to experience enjoyment and confidence when participating in sports. Establishing physical literacy can set your baby up for success by leading to a sustained interest in exercise.
For children under 3, it is most important to give them opportunities to move and have free play. Once they are 1, focus on fun activities such as family walks, playing clean up, or running around the park.
Physical Literacy Skills
How Much Exercise?
There is not a specific recommendation on the amount of exercise in this age group. I would recommend doing something active several times a day. Don’t feel guilty if you are too busy to leave the house. Toddlers climb and run everywhere naturally, even if just going to find their favorite toy.
Children aged 3-5 years should be active 3 hours a day (approximately 15 min/hr while awake) with free unstructured play.
Long Term Benefits to Exercise
Free play is integral in brain development and can help with learning and socialization. There is also strong evidence that adequate exercise decreases risk for excessive weight gain and increases bone health.
The effort you put in to helping your child be active now will reap returns far into adulthood. Stay tuned for similar articles for school-aged children and adolescents.
Physical Activity Assessment and Counseling in Pediatric Clinical Settings Felipe Lobelo, Natalie D. Muth, Sara Hanson, Blaise A. Nemeth, COUNCIL ON SPORTS MEDICINE AND FITNESS and SECTION ON OBESITY, Pediatrics March 2020, 145 (3) e20193992
The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children, Michael Yogman, Andrew Garner, Jeffrey Hutchinson, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, COMMITTEE ON PSYCHOSOCIAL ASPECTS OF CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTH and COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA, Pediatrics September 2018, 142 (3) e20182058
Photo credit: Emma Bauso