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Pregnancy and baby

Keeping babies and toddlers active

How active should my child be? (6 to 30 months)

Media last reviewed: 02/04/2017

Next review due: 02/04/2020

It's important that you encourage your baby to move and enjoy lots of active play.

Before your baby begins to crawl, you can encourage them to be physically active through:

  • reaching and grasping
  • pulling and pushing
  • moving their head, body, arms and legs during daily routines
  • supervised play on the floor

As they grow and develop, children love using their bodies to crawl, walk, run, jump and climb.

Children who can walk on their own should be physically active every day for at least 180 minutes (three hours), spread throughout the day.

It can be indoors or outdoors. Being active isn't just for the summer – your child needs to stay active all through the year.

Giving your child the chance to get active and burn off energy can help develop their muscles and bones, as well as improve their co-ordination skills and how well they sleep. Starting young can get them into healthy habits for the rest of their life.

Babies and children shouldn't stay sitting or lying down for long periods, except when they're asleep.

Watching TV, using a tablet or being strapped into a buggy, car seat, highchair or baby bouncer for long periods is not good for children.

If you need to make a long car journey, consider taking plenty of breaks and getting your child out of their seat for a bit.

How to get your baby moving

  • Lay your baby down so they can kick their legs.
  • Give them some time on their tummy with toys to reach for nearby. Little and often is best when they're very young. Only do tummy time when your baby is awake and you're there to keep an eye on them.
  • Pulling, pushing, grasping and playing with other people are great ways to practise different kinds of movements.
  • Once your baby has started crawling, let them crawl around the floor, but make sure it's safe first – see our home safety checklist.
  • Playing outdoors helps your baby learn about their surroundings.
  • You can take your baby swimming from a very young age – there's no need to wait until they've been vaccinated.

Get more activity tips for babies.

Activity tips for toddlers and young children

  • Let your toddler walk with you rather than always using the buggy.
  • Toddlers and young children love going to the park, where they can climb and swing or just run around.
  • Toys your child can pick up and move around will help improve their co-ordination and develop the muscles in their arms and hands.
  • Involve your toddler in household tasks like unpacking shopping, tidying or sorting washing.
  • Teach your child songs with actions and encourage them to dance to music.

It's good to join in with your child's active play when you can. Being active together is a fun way to spend time with them and shows your child that activity is enjoyable. Show them how to do new activities so they can copy you and give them lots of praise.

Stay active yourself and try to meet the physical activity guidelines for adults to make sure you're exercising enough. You're a role model for your child, so let them join in with your activity if it's suitable.

There may be activities for parents and children at your local leisure centre and Sure Start Children's Centre.

Activity for young children with a disability

All babies and young children should be active, including children with a medical condition or disability, unless their health professionals give you different advice.

Just like other children, they will enjoy being active and it will help their development. You may need to adapt some activities to suit your child.

Scope has ideas for games that all children can play, and the Contact a Family advice service offers information on caring for a disabled child.

More information

The British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health has leaflets for parents with practical ideas for building activity into your child's day:

Page last reviewed: 03/09/2015

Next review due: 30/04/2017


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