Published Apr 29, 2020By Kimberlee Leonard
Toddlers seem to be a perpetual motion machine at times, as they master walking, running, kicking, and throwing. Even though the natural tendency is for kids this age to be getting a ton of activity, you want to make sure they are getting enough. At this age, it’s less about how much exercise your toddler gets as it is getting activated.
Toddler exercise – physical capabilities
Toddlers are developing their coordination and take great pride in showing off the latest activities they are able to do. These activities include running, hopping, kicking, throwing, and climbing. Every child develops at their own pace, so don’t force your child to do activities they aren’t comfortable doing — just give them opportunities to do it all.
My son was not very daring as a toddler. In fact, he was probably about 4 before he had his first running fall that led to a strawberry on his knee. He did enjoy getting down in the sand to dig some serious holes. Of course, he was a chubby monkey and I wanted to find ways for him to play like the other kids — this sometimes took creativity.
Short bursts of activity
There is no set amount of time for how long you should get your toddler to exercise. This is unlike adults, who should have approximately 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every day.
Children under the age of 5 should have several opportunities throughout the day to be active and get exercise. When taken to the park or playground, most kids will go from activity to activity with friends. Attention spans may be short as they are intrigued by every part of the apparatus, bug, or friend’s toy.
Whether at the park, backyard, or large space in your home, toddlers should be able to be active several times a day with periods of rest in between. Your child’s body is working at a much higher metabolic rate than yours, building bones and muscles, and growing. They need the rest in between.
5 fun ways for your toddler to exercise
While you may set a playdate with friends at the park once a day, you will need to find other opportunities for your toddler to get exercise to keep them active throughout the day. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to create family activities. This is a great way to help the whole family get the exercise everyone needs and bond as a family.
Andrea Johnson Kirkman, mom of a toddler, says she loves mommy-daughter time: “We live near a local mountain where we go for hikes. We also enjoy doing yoga together.”
Five ideas for family activities that are age-appropriate for all include:
1. Simon Says: A childhood favorite with lots of balancing, hopping, and dancing motions. Take turns being Simon.
2. The Animal Challenge: Have everyone become their favorite animals such as a frog, penguin, or eagle. Imitate the way the animals walk, run, sound.
3. Yoga: Invite your kids to do yoga with you. It will teach them how to control their body and mind.
4. Dance Party: Have a dance party with everyone’s favorite music. Let everyone contribute to the playlist so that there is a song for everyone to go crazy with.
5. Ring Around the Rosy: Get in a circle, hold hands, go around and around until they all fall down.
Licensed nutritionist Katie Hottel warns parents to not be tempted to put their child on a diet. Instead, she points out that exercise is key. “Diet is 80% of the equation for everyone but I always encourage that everyone, children included, need to move more,” she told Mom.com. “If your child is not into sports, encourage family bike rides, walking the dog, weekend hikes, dance parties, etc. Make movement fun!”
Working with your doctor
If you are concerned about your child’s exercise level not being enough, talk to your pediatrician. My son’s doctor didn’t just talk to me about the exercise levels my son needed to reduce his chubby monkey stature, he asked my son what he loved to do and encouraged him to do more of it.
What you don’t want to do is put your child on an unnecessary diet. A child’s body needs the calories to build and grow. This means that with the right levels of activity, they will naturally lean out as their body lengthens and grows. It’s natural for many children to go through periods where they get a little chubby and then lean out during a growth spurt. Ideally, you find exercises and activities that your child loves to do