From birth to 5 years of age, your child goes through a lot of development. Movement through play encourages this development and helps your child to develop the skills to be active throughout their lives. Find out how you can help your child under 5 years to sit less, move more and sleep well.
- Movement through play helps young children to develop their physical, social, thinking and emotional abilities.
- Children under 5 years old need active play every day, including opportunities to explore outdoors, to encourage their creativity and imagination.
- Regular active play, limited sitting and enough good quality sleep are key to a child’s healthy growth and development.
How to help your child to sit less
By including physical play regularly in their day, you can help limit the amount of time your child spends sitting. Some of the things children learn through moving cannot be taught or learned from sitting still or watching screens. Parents are often misled into thinking that colourful images on TV programmes and other electronic devices are good for a child’s mental development, but even though children will naturally be attracted to these, it does not mean they're good for them. When children are physically active during their play, they use all 5 senses to learn about the world around them.
Some ideas to help your child to sit less include:
- limiting the use of equipment that restricts movement, such as baby walkers, high chairs and activity gyms
- not leaving children to sleep in capsules and car seats – they should be used for transportation only
- discouraging screen time for children under 2 years and limiting screen time to less than 1 hour every day for children aged 2 years or older
- replacing TV time with reading time, story time or doing jigsaw puzzles together
- encouraging toddlers and pre-schoolers to walk instead of being in a pushchair.
How to help your child to move more
Provide fun activities that support physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual growth. Aim for at least 3 hours every day for toddlers and pre-schoolers, spread throughout the day.
Some ideas include:
- encouraging babies to reach, grasp and hold by placing toys just out of their reach
- letting infants pull themselves up on and move around objects, such as coffee tables
- playing interactive games with toddlers, such as Simon Says
- encouraging play in an indoor playhouse made from cardboard boxes or chairs and bed sheets, or an outdoor playhouse made from old wood, sticks and grass
- playing hide and seek (indoors or outdoors).
How to help your child to sleep well
Children need to get enough sleep to support their growth and development. The amount of sleep they need changes as they get older.
- Babies (birth to 3 months) should have 14 to 17 hours of good quality sleep every day, including daytime sleeps.
- Infants (4 to 12 months) should have 12 to 15 hours of good quality sleep every day, including daytime sleeps, which will tend to decrease as they get closer to 12 months old.
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years) should have 11 to 14 hours of good quality sleep every day, including at least 1 daytime sleep.
- Pre-schoolers (3 to 4 years) should have 10 to 13 hours of good quality sleep every day, with consistent bedtimes and wake-up times.
Some ways to help your child to sleep well include:
- encouraging night-time sleep in babies
- giving plenty of cuddles and respond to physical and emotional cues when your baby or infant cries
- developing a consistent (but flexible) daytime and bedtime schedule – this could include a warm bath, a massage, dressing in bed clothes, brushing teeth and reading a story
- avoiding any TV or other electronic devices or bright lights for at least 1 hour before bed
- encouraging sleep by singing oriori (lullaby) as a way of sharing pūrākau (ancestral knowledge)
- promoting independent sleep by putting toddlers to bed when they are tired but not asleep.
Active movement activity guides for children 0–5 years Sport New Zealand
Physical literacy Sport New Zealand, 2015
Brainwave Trust Aotearoa
Under 5s Sport Wellington, NZ
Raising Children NZ
Activity and Nutrition Aotearoa
- Sit less, move more, sleep well – active play guidelines for under-fives Ministry of Health, NZ, 2017
|Amanda Taylor is a community sport advisor at Sport Wellington, with a focus on activity for young children.|