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PLAYING: How active play encourages healthy growth in your toddler

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How active play encourages healthy growth in your toddler

Did you know? Many two-year-olds spend too much time sitting still and don’t play outdoors every day.

3 mins to read Dec 28, 2021

Regular, consistent daily activity is important for your toddler’s growth and development. Physical play, both indoors and outdoors, gives them the chance to discover the world, develop their motor skills, and stay healthy. According to recent research, being active regularly, and only staying still for short periods of time, may also help prevent them from becoming overweight in the future. 

However, a recent study found that only one in five two-year-olds plays outdoors every day when at home. Research has also shown that two-year-old toddlers spend most of their time (around 85%) in idle activities that do not require much movement. As a result they are failing to meet the activity guidelines for toddlers.

Time for play

The only time your toddler should be inactive for more than one hour is when they’re asleep. Several countries recommend three hours of physical activity for toddlers each day. This activity should be spread throughout the day. For toddlers who are walking, it includes “light” activities such as standing, moving, and rolling, and more energetic things such as skipping, hopping, running, and jumping. 

Scientists have revealed that the type of play equipment your child uses may influence their activity level. When young children have access to adequate space and appropriate equipment, they are able to be more active. If they spend most of their time indoors, or only play with toys such as swings and riding toys, they end up being less active. Now that your little one is likely to be more confident on their feet, encourage them to play on jumping equipment and with games marked out on the floor, such as hopscotch, in addition to the usual swings and slides. 

Staying active together

You are your toddler’s role model so enjoy being active together. It doesn’t have to involve expensive equipment. One recent study showed the importance of getting outdoors¬—think running down hills, playing in the grass, or simply walking instead of sitting in the stroller. 

If you think your toddler is spending too much time sitting still, now is the time to make changes to their daily routine. Between 18 and 24 months of age is a good time to take action and increase your toddler’s activity levels. Evidence suggests there is a link between sedentary behaviors in early childhood and being overweight at school age, so get outdoors, get moving, and stay healthy.  


  • Downing KL Hnatiuk JA, Hinkley T, et al. Interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour in 0-5-year-olds: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Br J Sports Med 2018; 52(5):314-21.

  • Gubbels JS, Van Kann DH, Jansen MW. 2012 Play equipment, physical activity opportunities and children’s activity levels at childcare. J Environ Public Health 2012; 
    doi: 10.1155/2012/326520.

  • Gubbels JS, Van Kann DH, Cardon G, et al. Activating childcare environments for all children: the importance of children’s individual needs. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2018; 15(7):1400. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15071400.


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