Keeping Kids Active

As parents and caregivers, are we relying too heavily on playpens, baby seats, and television? Apparently so! The first-ever physical activity guidelines for infants and toddlers has been developed by the National Association of Sports and Physical Education (NASPE).

The guidelines were developed out of concern not only for childhood obesity, but also for correct physical and cognitive development of our infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Many professionals believe that sedentary activities can delay developmental milestones such as rolling over, climbing, and hand-eye coordination, just to name a few. Therefore, infants should be encouraged to be physically active from the beginning of life.

In this most recent study, NASPE has provided 5 guidelines in two age categories, for the parents, caregivers, teachers and health care professions of infants and children under three. These guidelines address the types of physical activity and environments children should exposed to.

Infant Guidelines:

  1. Infants should interact with parents and/or caregivers in daily physical activities that are dedicated to promoting the exploration of their environment.

  2. Infants should be placed in safe settings that facilitate physical activity and do not restrict movement for prolonged periods of time.

  3. Infants' physical activity should promote the development of movement skills.

  4. Infants should have an environment that meets or exceeds recommended safety standards for performing large muscle activities.

  5. Individuals responsible for the well-being of infants should be aware of the importance of physical activity, and facilitate the child's movement skills.

Toddler & Preschooler Guidelines:

  1. Toddlers should accumulate at least 30 minutes daily of structured physical activity; preschoolers, at least 60 minutes.

  2. Toddlers and preschoolers should engage in at least 60 minutes and up to several hours per day of daily, unstructured physical activity and should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time except when sleeping.

  3. Toddlers and preschoolers should develop movement skills that are building blocks for more complex movement tasks; preschoolers should develop competence in movement skills that are building blocks for more complex movement tasks.

  4. Toddlers and preschoolers should have indoor and outdoor areas that meet or exceed recommended safety standards for performing large muscle activities.

  5. Individuals responsible for the well-being of toddlers and preschoolers should be aware of the importance of physical activity and facilitate the child's movement skills.

Increasing your childís physical activity, according to the guidelines, should be enjoyable and fun so as to ensure future healthy development. Itís the old "oatmeal-cookie-versus-just-the-oatmeal" theory: They will get all the benefits of developmental exercise while having a wonderful time playing. Another important rule: the activities performed should be age-appropriate for your child. To help you know what physical and play activities are best for your child, many professionals have put together this information and offer it in a variety of formats.

"Mommy & Me" classes offer personal instruction in a class setting for playing with the child. Their activities provide fun play exercises and often make use of play equipment not found in most homes or playgrounds. Classes are generally offered at a variety of days and times for convenience, and the cost runs anywhere from $400 to $800 per year. Classes can be found in your local newspapers or Family Magazines. Nationally run programs include Kid Concepts USA and Gymboree Play & Music.

Parenting Videos provide parents with age-appropriate play exercise programs to stimulate and teach your child. These videos provide similar instruction to that of the "Mommy & Me" classes, however, they make use of equipment that can be found in most homes or the local playground. A wonderful aspect of videos is their ability to be played over and over as well as shared with the childís other caregivers such as grandparents, babysitters, and siblings. At around $15 per video the cost is relatively inexpensive. Good parenting videos can be found at or the local library. One example of appropriate videos is Baby Playtimeís series of Parenting Videos. It is important to note the videos we describe here are not videos designed for the child to sit and watch, which compound the sedentary activities we are seeing in our infants.

Another resource for parents to learn about physical activities through play is the abundance of literature on the subject including the NASPE Guidelines document. You can find numerous books and how-to guides at your local library or favorite bookstore. Reading information allows you to incorporate your own style based on the advice of professionals. Incorporating the information you find with the videos described above, or with a Mommy & Me class, may prove to be best for learning how to get and keep your child physically active.

So go ahead start playing with your infant, toddler or preschooler today. You are the biggest influence in your childís life and what you do with them now will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Help with their physical, emotional and intellectual development now, while they are young. For more information or to purchase a copy of the NASPE Guidelines, visit their web site at or call them at 1-800-321-0789.