Is my toddler getting enough exercise?

Open navigator

1. Always on the go?

Did you know that children learn more new physical skills in their first five years than at any other time in their life?

However, today’s children could face a shorter life span than their parents thanks to their more sedentary lifestyles.

You might feel as if you’ve spent all day running around with your pre-schooler, but you could actually be getting more exercise than they are. It’s always tempting to strap your child into the buggy rather than let them walk when you’re in a hurry, but they could be missing out on a great opportunity to be active.

2. Why do babies need to exercise?

CBeebies Dad and presenter Alex Winters investigates why children need so much physical activity, right from birth.

In this video, Physical Activities Specialist Angela Newport explains why it’s so important for babies and children to be active, and what parents can do to help.

3. Will my child’s lifestyle shorten their life?

Today’s children could be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents thanks to unhealthier lifestyles leading to conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

But it’s not just a question of physical health - being active could also help improve children’s self-confidence and communication skills. It can go deeper too - there are also reports that it could help important brain structures develop!

So how can we make sure our little ones get time to practice all the developing physical skills they need, and still get the washing done, get round the supermarket, get their brother to nursery, then get to work on time?

4. Start with a small change

In this video, Physical Activities Specialist Angela Newport reveals five easy changes to build more physical activity into your child’s day without overloading yourself!

1. Go outdoors: Children are much more active when they’re outside, so go to the park and let them explore…

2. Ditch the car: Swap fiddling with car seats and stressing about parking for walking, scooting or cycling to nursery instead.

3. Stay local: Other parents, libraries and council websites are great ways to discover free activities for kids in your area.

4. Lead by example: Getting involved with your child’s physical play makes it more fun for them – and you feel the benefit too!

5. Meet up with family and friends and get active: It’s sociable, and it gets you all out of the house.

5. Walking with a purpose

Once your child learns to walk, they should be getting active for at least three hours every day. That doesn’t mean extreme exercise, simply moving around and building physical activity into your day has immediate and long term benefits.

Building more walking into your day needn’t be hard work - turn your daily commute into a game by giving your child a ‘spot sheet’ of things to find as you go along – they’ll be so keen to tick off the next item that the walk will fly by!

Make a colour-coded collection box to take with you. Ask your child to find items of each colour as they walk, a white feather, a green leaf, or a yellow buttercup. Bring a small bag or camera to collect special finds. Encourage little ones to use all their senses. Talk about what you see, hear or even smell on the way.

If you fancy a real treasure hunt, try geocaching together. It’s an activity where you use a GPS device or smartphone to find a small ‘treasure’ box hidden in a particular location. Children love the challenge of searching for the geocache, and the excitement of finding one keeps them focused.

6. Children learn by copying

Children learn by imitating the grown-ups in their lives, so if your little one sees you enjoying being active, whether that’s walking to the shops, doing the cleaning, or dancing around the house, it will encourage them to do the same.

Getting your child to help you out with jobs at home makes your life easier – and weirdly, most kids actually find it fun! Helping to tidy up toys, pairing socks or even giving you a hand with the gardening gives them a chance to practise new physical skills, as well as keeping them on the go.

Get down and boogie with your kids! Dancing is a fantastic way to help children learn to control their bodies. It improves their balance, coordination and flexibility and if you applaud and copy their moves, it’s a huge boost for their self-confidence too. Using actions or dance routines with older children also helps them to understand order and sequence, and to anticipate things.

Introduce your children to some of your favourite tracks and dance together regularly – they’ll love seeing you relax and have fun too.

7. Which activity would suit my pre-schooler?

My child loves…

...playing with water

You chose

…playing with water

Try swimming – it’s free in many places during the holidays, and most pools have groups and classes for babies and children.

...anything with wheels

You chose

...anything with wheels

Try scooting or riding a balance bike in the park, or to travel to nursery.

...playing at home

You chose

...playing at home

Set up a mini-obstacle course for your toddler to explore with cushions, blankets or boxes to crawl through or around.

…running around

You chose

…running around

Take a football to the park and see if they can kick, roll or catch it. Try blowing bubbles for them to chase.