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Physical Fitness in Young Children

Posted by Cara Allen - Parenting

Obesity rates - we hear about them all the time and yes, Americans of all ages are fat.  (Sorry, but I want to make a point, and obesity always sounds so much nicer than fat.)

For children ages 2-19, 17% of children are considered to be obese (see, being nice again!).  The good news is that there have been recent declines in the rates of obesity in preschool-aged children, so let's keep up the trend. 

Physical activity is key to preventing obesity.  Guidelines for daily amounts of toddler activity:
  • At least 30 minutes of structured (adult-led) physical activity  (Adults - activity is helpful to your obesity prevention, too!)
  • At least 60 minutes of unstructured (free play) physical activity
What are some things adults can do to encourage physical activity in toddlers?
  1. Provide age-appropriate active toys such as balls, push and pull toys, and riding vehicles (ones where the kids have to provide the power)
  2. Talk walks together
  3. Explore your backyard
  4. Use playground equipment at a local park
  5. Imitate animal movements - walk like a penguin, hop like a frog
  6. Listen to music and dance together
  7. Limit the time your child spends watching TV/DVDs
  8. Limit the time your child spends playing on a computer tablet or smartphone
Kids who like to engage in active play when they are little are likely to stay active in the future, and maybe these recent declines in young child obesity can translate to declines in obesity in older children as your active toddlers grow up!

Thank you to the Illinois Early Learning Project ( as the origin to the following sources:

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