Daily physical exercise is essential to the healthy growth and development of children of all ages. How much is optimal? According to the National Association of Sports and Physical Education (NASPE), children should spend at least 60 minutes per day engaged in physical activity.
What that looks like, though, can vary based upon the child’s age. Here is some more targeted information.
Toddlers age 2 to 3. To learn and master developing physical skills, toddlers need at least 30 minutes of adult-guided physical activity and 60 minutes or more of unstructured physical activity every day. Except when they are sleeping, toddlers should not be allowed to engage in more than one consecutive hour of inactive play such as television watching.
Preschoolers age 4 to 5. Practice and mastery of gross and fine motor skills and coordination development are the primary goals of physical activities at the preschool level. Physical play also provides preschoolers with opportunities to learn and practice cooperative social skills such as taking turns, sharing and following directions. NASPE recommends that preschoolers engage in at least 60 minutes of structured physical activity and one to several hours of free play each day. As with toddlers, preschoolers should not be permitted to engage in inactive play for more than one hour at a time.
Children age 6-12. During the elementary school years, physical activities help children build physical strength, coordination, and self-confidence. School-age children should engage in one or more hours of vigorous physical activity daily. Inactivity (TV, gaming, computer time) should not exceed two hours at a time.
Types of Exercise
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children should engage in three different types of physical activity each week, doing so in age-appropriate ways. The types of activity are as follows:
- Aerobic: This is the kind of activity that boosts a person’s heart rate, and most of a child’s exercise should be this type, the CDC says. Examples include walking, running, skipping, and so forth. At least three times a week, the child’s aerobic exercise should reach the point where it makes “them breathe fast and their hearts pound.”
- Muscle Strengthening: This type of exercise should be included in the daily routine at least three times a week. It can include climbing or doing push-ups, as two examples.
- Bone Strengthening: Running and jumping can also help to strengthen a child’s bones. So can jumping rope or participating in a group sports activity where the child needs to rapidly change direction.
Experts at UT Health, San Antonio, make recommendations about age-appropriate exercises that can be done, even during COVID. For toddlers, they recommend:
- Allowing them to make music with household objects
- Going to the park with parents or playing in the yard
- Playing with a ball
Preschoolers can enjoy the same activities as toddlers but can take them to the next level. Instead of rolling a ball, for example, they can throw, catch, and kick that ball, perhaps as part of a structured game. If there are other children at home, they can play with them in more organized ways. They can add more gymnastic moves to their dancing and participate in obstacle courses and scavenger hunts. By the time that a child is in elementary school, they may enjoy jumping rope, skating, playing hopscotch and other games. Depending upon the child’s age, they may be ready to do yoga.
Healthy Physical Play at Horizon Education Centers
Horizon Education Centers incorporate healthy physical play into program activities at all age levels. To learn more about our centers, watch our virtual tour video.