Kids Need To Move, Sit & Sleep Every Day
As young children grow and develop they need to move, sleep and sit the right amounts each day to be healthy. Many people think of young children as naturally active. However, only 13 percent of Canadian preschoolers are getting the recommended amount of physical activity and sleep in their days.
To make things simpler for parents and caregivers, a new set of guidelines was released last month setting out how much sleep, movement and time sitting are needed by kids ages four and under for healthy growth and development.
The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years, developed by ParticipACTION and other health agencies and researchers from Canada and around the world, goes beyond just looking at exercise to make recommendations for sleep and sitting time as well. Following these guidelines through the early years is associated with healthy growth and development, improved learning and thinking, higher fitness levels, increased quality of life, reduced injuries and fun!
The guidelines are broken down by age:
- Children less than one year old should be physically active several times a day and should get plenty of sleep: 14 to 17 hours for children three months of age or less, and 12 to 16 hours for kids four to 11 months old. Those numbers include naps.
- Children ages one to four should move at least 180 minutes per day, including heart-pumping, energetic play, with kids three to four years old getting at least one hour of such play every day.
- Toddlers one to two years old should get 11 to 14 hours of good-quality sleep, while preschoolers should get 10 to 13 hours per day, with consistent bedtimes and wake-up times for both.
- Infants, toddlers and preschoolers should not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., in a stroller or car seat) or sit for extended periods.
- Kids two years old and younger shouldn't be spending any sedentary time with screens, and two- to four-year-olds should have no more than one hour of screen time per day.
The guidelines point out that while some types of sedentary (or sitting) behaviour are good for children – for e.g. reading or storytelling with a caregiver - excessive screen time before age five is, as it’s linked with language delays, reduced attention and lower school readiness.
The researchers want parents and caregivers to know that there will be days when it is harder to follow the guidelines, and that is okay. The guidelines are a suggestion for what a typical healthy day should look like for young children.
The guidelines remind us that all types of movement matter, and a balance of moving, sleeping and sitting is required for best health. When it comes to play and physical activity, more is better for all ages. Swapping sitting and screen time with additional energetic play, and trading indoor for outdoor time can provide greater health benefits. The older children get, the more energetic play they need.
Remember that sleep matters too! Even if a child is getting enough physical activity in a day, the health benefits can be reduced by too little sleep. For healthy sleep, have a calming bedtime routine, go to bed and wake up the same time each day, and avoid screens before bed.