Written by: Toni Foot
Use their energy efficiently
Keeping your toddler active can be very challenging at times, especially when you need to focus on other things or even just sit down for a well-earned rest! However, it is important to ensure that toddlers do stay active for a good portion of their day. Try to avoid keeping them restrained (such as in a buggy, highchair or car seat) for more than an hour at a time.
Although running around the garden or playing at a park are great activities, you don’t need to spend all day doing those things. Investigating something in the kitchen or garden, working out how a toy works or completing a puzzle are great opportunities for them to develop their physical and mental abilities. Children aged between about 1 and 3 years should be encouraged to engage in adult-led activities for about 30 minutes per day, whilst 60 minutes per day should be spent on child-led activities (see below for some ideas).
Keeping away from the TV
There is no harm in letting a child unwind in front of their favourite cartoon once in a while. There are many children’s programmes available that are bursting with educational content and others that encourage children to get up and join in with actions along with their favourite characters. However, watching too much TV is not healthy for children who really need to be actively engaged with something rather than passively observing. Strange though it may sound, more calories are burned sitting still with no activity than when watching TV because we tend to fidget whilst unoccupied whereas we become almost completely immobile when engrossed by the TV.
Children do not need to watch any TV at all in a day. However, if you do allow the TV on, think carefully about how much and when they have access to it. Try some of these tips:
- Avoid letting toddlers watch more than about 1-2 hours per day.
- Have time in your daily routine that the TV can be switched on if they want to watch it. This can help avoid pestering as they know when they are allowed to have it and when they have to do something else.
- Split up TV time, perhaps having 30 minutes in the morning and another 30 minutes to wind down before bed.
- Try watching with your children, asking questions and copying things the characters do to inspire your child to be actively involved.
- Plan their TV time to coincide with time you can make use of. Planning your time will allow you to spend more quality time with them for the rest of your day.
Ideas for adult-led activities
- Sing action songs like ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ or ‘Row Row Your Boat’ that get your child moving.
- Listen to music and dance together. Hold their hands whilst they jump, or spin them around with you (this is great exercise for parents too!).
- Search out some nature. Even a city street or window box can be exciting – lift up a stone or a pot and see what’s living there.
- Play hide and seek, or hide ‘treasures’ for them to find around the house.
- Do a jigsaw puzzle or craft together.
- Join a class – toddler gymnastics or music classes are great fun.
- Pretend play. See if they can imitate different animals or people doing different jobs, or have a ‘tea party’ with their teddies.
- Make an obstacle course with them, or a track to take their toys around.
Ideas for child-led activities
- Dig or investigate in the garden.
- Building with bricks or other materials.
- Imagination games – give them some dressing up items or a cardboard box and see what they do!
- Dolls’ houses, farm sets or garages can inspire hours of fun.
- Drawing, painting or using stickers.
- Play with salt dough or plasticine, or investigate messy play materials (such as pasta and glitter, angel delight, sand or water).