Canada & Australia issue 24-hour movement guidelines for babies, toddlers, & pre-school children
“Play more, spend less time on screens” is the message to parents. Kids aged one to four should get at least three hours of physical activity throughout the day for healthy growth and development. Screen time is not recommended for children younger than two years old, and no more than one hour for those aged 2-4, but less is better. These were some of the highlights of the guidelines released by Canadian researchers including the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, obesity specialists at Ottawa’s Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), and the non-profit group ParticipAction.
Australia also issued similar guidelines but extended the age band to include children up to five years of age. These guidelines are significant as they help inform parents on how much movement, sleep, and sedentary time is needed for young children for healthy growth and development.
Children below the age of four should not be restrained – for instance, in a car seat or a stroller – for more than an hour at a time. “Even if a child is getting sufficient physical activity in a day, the health benefits can be reduced by too little sleep, or too much sedentary behavior, especially if that time is spent in front of screens. Following these guidelines through the early years is associated with healthy growth, better learning and thinking, improved motor development, higher fitness level, increased quality of life, and reduce injuries,” said Dr. Mark Tremblay, director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at CHEO.
The guidelines designated playtime for babies too – they should be encouraged from birth to engage in physical activity, particularly through supervised interactive floor-based play in safe environments. For babies who have not started walking, researchers recommend 30 minutes of “tummy time” including reaching and grasping, pushing and pulling and crawling spread throughout the day when the baby is awake. Caregivers are encouraged to engage with babies through activities such as reading, singing, puzzles, and storytelling.
Children also need to develop a healthy “sleep hygiene” by having a calming bedtime routine, consistent bedtimes and wake-up times, even on weekends. Screen time before sleep for children should be avoided. The World Health Organization is considering the adoption of this 24-hour approach as part of the development of global guidelines.