Activity and Movement for Children under 5

Dr. Lena Zimmo,/ Sr. Health Promotion Researcher
06 December, 2018

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Daily physical activity is essential for your child’s health as it strengthens muscles and bones, improves cardiovascular health and develops motor skills. Mothers and other caregivers should encourage children to spend more time in physical activities and less time in sedentary behavior such as sitting and screen time. Local and international health organizations have directed that infants (less than one year) to be involved in floor-based play and reduce their restriction for a long period of time. The recommendations also stressed not to allow infants and children less than two years to sit and watch television or other electronic games at all. For children aged 1 to 5 years, they are recommended to do physical activity for three hours distributed during the day, they are also recommended to minimize the sedentary time such as sitting and watching television to less than one hour per day (for children aged 2-5 years).

Physical activities for infants (less than one year):

For children who have not yet walked, physical activity means movement in all its forms such as tummy time, rolling, reaching and grabbing objects, as well as and claiming and crawling.

1) Tummy time:

- The time spent by the child lying on his stomach while moving his limbs.

- Tummy time gives the child a break from sleep on the back; moreover, it trains him to lift his head and to push up his hands and arms.

- For newborns, you can achieve tummy time by placing the child on his tummy on top of your chest or in your lap for a few minutes, two to three times a day.

- As the child grows, you can put him on the bed or on a blanket on the floor, you can also repeat the tummy time for longer periods.

- It is recommended to engage children aged 3-4 months at the tummy time for 20 minutes a day.

- Watch your child continuously during the tummy time.

2) Reaching and grabbing objects:

- In the first two months of your child’s life, let him feel different objects.

- At 3-4 months put your child on his back and let him try to reach for toys hanging on the crib.

- At the age of 5-6 months, place a toy just out of your child reach and help him to move to get to it.

- Step up with your child in attempts to reach objects such as putting a small ball away and helping him to pick it up and then put it in a box.



3) Additional exercises:

You can help your child spend more time in physical activity by moving his limbs. There are several ways to do this:

- Allow your child to sleep on his back, then encourage him to hold your hand. Stretch out the child’s hands and put them on his chest and repeat it several times. Then move to the lower part of your child's body and move the pelvis, legs, and knees in different ways, such as holding each leg in the hand and extending it and then bend it to the child’s chest.

- You can also raise a child's leg so toes touch nose. Sometimes the child’s toes do not reach the nose, so do not push him.

- You can also do many different exercises for your child, such as taking the sitting position and put the child between your legs, facing you, and move him back and forth.

4) Crawling:

- Most children start crawling at the age of 6-10 months.

- When your child starts to crawl, provide him with safe place to play, it is recommended to engage him in interactive floor play.

- You can also put a pillow or folded blankets on the floor and encourage your child to crawl over and around them.


Talk to your child and sing to him while you are doing exercises to make it more fun and interactive.

Play and exercise with your child whenever he is quiet. If your child does not show interest in playing and starts crying, it means he is tired and has no desire to play.

Physical activities for children 1-5 years:

- Throughout your child’s growth, you can increase the duration and intensity of physical activity. It is recommended for children under the age of five and who are capable of walking to engage in physical activity for at least 3 hours distributed throughout the day.

- When your child start walking, encourage him to walk more, move around the house, and climb stairs.

- When your child is able to balance well, encourage him to take part in many physical activities such as running, jumping, climbing, swimming, etc.

- Try to engage your child engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity for 10 minutes followed by a period of quiet activity.

- Young children have a short concentration time so it is recommended to develop a summary activity plan to include both organized and unorganized physical activities.

- Give your child opportunities to play both indoor and outdoor.

- Provide your child with games that encourage him to move, such as bicycles, hoppers, and pushing games.

- In mall and entertainment venues, choose activities for your child that include movement such as skiing, climbing instead of electronic games and mobile mechanics.

- Encourage your child to explore and let him try to overcome some challenges appropriate for his age.

Always remember to help your child spend more time in physical activities and less time being sedentary 



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