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  • WHO: Toddlers (1 to 2 Years) Need to Play and Be Active for at Least 180 Minutes Every Day

    The World Health Organization has issued its recommendations for kids to sit less and play more.
    by Kate Borbon .
WHO: Toddlers (1 to 2 Years) Need to Play and Be Active for at Least 180 Minutes Every Day
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  • In April 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidelines on physical activity for children, specifically for those ages 5 and below. The guidelines were developed by a panel of experts who looked at several factors, including what happens to children who get too little sleep and too much screen time.

    “Children under 5 must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy,” WHO’s news release reads.

    According to the WHO, insufficient physical activity is responsible for over 5 million deaths worldwide every year, including people from different age groups.

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    WHO’s guidelines on physical activity for young children

    Dr. Fiona Bull, program manager for surveillance and population-based prevention on of noncommunicable diseases at WHO, says, “Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life.”

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    Access to gadgets and the Internet have made it easy for kids to stay home and be on the couch all day, instead of engaging in various kinds of physical activity. We know that's detrimental to children’s development, as previous studies have found, with the risk of suffering from long-term issues. WHO's recommendations address it by highlighting that play and physical activity are essential.

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    Physical activity for infants less than a year old

    • Be physically active several times a day in different ways (e.g., interactive floor-based play, 30 minutes of tummy time for babies who are not yet mobile).
    • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time. It means they are not in strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back for more than an hour at a time. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged. WHO does recommend zero screen time for children less than a year old.
    • Have 14 to 17 hours (for babies ages 0 to 3 months) or 12 to 16 hours (for babies ages 4 to 11 months) of good sleep including naps.

    Physical activity for children ages 1 to 2 years old

    • Be engaged in different kinds of physical activity for at least 180 minutes every day. This ideally includes moderate- to vigorous-intensity activities.
    • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time or sit for extended periods. When the child is seated, he is ideally engaged in a reading or storytelling activity. The WHO recommends no more than 1 hour of screen time for 2-year-olds.
    • Have 11 to 14 hours of good sleep including naps.

    Physical activity for children ages 3 to 4 years old

    • Be engaged in different kinds of physical activity for at least 180 minutes every day. At least 60 minutes should be dedicated to moderate- to vigorous-intensity activities.
    • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time. Reading or storytelling activity is encouraged when a child is sedentary. The WHO recommends no more than 1 hour of screen time for children these ages.
    • Have 10 to 13 hours of good sleep including naps.
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    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also released a recommended set of guidelines on physical activity for children, as well as adolescents. Specifically, the CDC says that kids and adolescents should get at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

    Ideally, kids get three types of physical activity: aerobic, where they can move their large muscles rhythmically; muscle-strengthening, where their muscles are allowed to do more work than usual; and bone-strengthening, which help produce a force that will promote the growth of their bones.

    Aerobic activities include riding bikes, running, hopping, and dancing. Muscle-strengthening activities include jumping rope and swinging on playground bars. Finally, bone-strengthening activities include sports like volleyball, basketball, and tennis.

    Fun physical activities to do with your child

    Given the importance of physical activity for children, don’t forget to give your child the opportunity to flex her muscles every day! You don’t have to restrict yourself to sports and outdoor activities; even inside the house, there are many games you can play with your child to provide her the physical activity she needs, such as indoor obstacle courses and even dance parties.

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    Walk like animals

    Even indoors, this game can be lots of fun! Together with your child, imitate how certain animals move; for instance, you can slither on the floor like snakes, hop like frogs, jump like kangaroos, walk on all fours like bears, or flap your arms and “fly” like birds.

    Jump in puddles

    Don’t be afraid to let your child get dirty! Dress yourself and your child up in waterproof gear and jump in, out, and over puddles. Here are other activities you can try doing if you are planning on playing in the mud with your little one.

    Hunt for treasure

    Bring out your child’s inner sleuth (or pirate) by letting her participate in a treasure hunt all over your home! Hide items and toys like stuffed dolls, marbles, vehicles, and dinosaurs in different parts of your house (or even outside) and allow your child time to figure out where each treasure is. Make the game also more exciting by providing tiny clues for her to decipher.

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    Play games with running and chasing

    It seems like all kids just enjoy running and chasing one another, so why not make a game out of it? Try different kinds of games, such as tag, freeze tag (more commonly known as “ice water”), or running away from a “monster” (to be played by a parent or an adult that the child is comfortable with).

    Kick balls

    Gather different types and sizes of balls and let your child kick them around, then see how far she can kick. It can also be an excellent way for her to learn how now she can kick a ball depending on how strongly she kicks.

    Dance around

    Sounds simple, but dance parties are a great way to keep kids moving! Turn up some fun, upbeat music and encourage your child to follow her body and dance and flail around. You might even want to make use of colorful lights to really get the party going!

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    Ride bikes

    Bicycle riding is an activity that can help strengthen kids’ muscles, making it an ideal thing to do when you and your child want to get some fresh air or take advantage of a sunny weather. Take your bikes and stroll around the neighborhood in the late afternoon together, then before you head back home, grab the opportunity to sit in the park and chat while having some merienda!

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    Egg relays

    This classic Pinoy party game is not only fun, but it also helps enhance children’s hand-eye coordination. Gather the kids, give each one a spoon and an egg (it can be a plastic one, a hard-boiled one, or even a fresh one), then have them balance the egg on their spoon while walking from one point to another. Take things up a notch by adding more challenges — for instance, have them dance while walking, or just see who can finish faster.

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    Obstacle course

    No need to do too much set-up — make use of items and furniture in your home to create a challenging obstacle course for your child to finish! Let her crawl under tables and through a cardboard box, jump over ropes and other hurdles, and even finish small events like throwing several small toys into a basket placed a considerable distance away, or skipping in place while singing a simple nursery rhyme. As your child masters the course or as she grows, try adding more obstacles or making the course more challenging.

    Play limbo rock

    Another classic party game, limbo rock can also help develop kids’ physical bodies. Start by placing the bar at a height that your child will be able to pass under easily, then as the game progresses, lower the bar little by little. Challenge her to pass under the bar each round without any part of her body or her clothes touching either the bar, the ground, or the wall.

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    This summer, rather than letting your child stay indoors with her eyes on a smartphone, a tablet, a computer, or a TV, encourage her to go outside and play! Aside from helping ensure that she grows and develops healthily both physically and cognitively, physical activity can also open up plenty of opportunities to make precious memories.

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