Experts recommend 120 minutes of physical activity for children each day. Half of that time (60 minutes) should be structured activity led by you, and the other half should be unstructured play led by the children. You don’t need to do all that activity at once – in fact, it’s better if you break it up and include movement throughout the day! Keeping active throughout the day helps children focus and behave better, gets oxygen flowing through their bodies, improves metabolism, and wards off the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle (like obesity). So get up and get moving, and have fun doing it!
When children spend outside, they improve their imaginations and creativity, strengthen their immune systems, gain greater respect for themselves and others, and decrease levels of stress, hyperactivity and risk of obesity. Playing outside is fun, free and easy – just open the backdoor.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time (TV, computers, video games, tablets or cell phones) for children under age two, and fewer than two hours of screen time per day for children two and older. However, research finds that 64 percent of babies and toddlers are watching an average of two hours of screen time per day, and 36 percent have a television in their bedroom by their second birthday.
The results are clear: Screen time is habit-forming and linked to obesity, difficulties with attention and hyperactivity, school performance problems, and emotional and conduct problems.
Child care centers should not provide any screen time for children at their home or center. If screen time is provided, it should only be for children two and older, and should be educational in nature. Short, five to ten minute bursts that tie into other lessons is best, and ideally, some physical activity would take place during the screen time!
Child care providers have a large influence on the lives of children in their care — 80 percent of children five or younger with employed mothers spend an average of 40 hours per week in child care. Still, if the healthy messages you teach aren’t reinforced by families at home, some of those positive messages will be lost. That’s why it’s imperative to communicate with parents and give them the proper tools they need to make healthy changes at home.
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Sometimes great changes are made in a child care home or center, but when the provider responsible for those changes retires or moves on, things go back to the way they used to be. That’s why it’s important to get physical activity guidelines written down so the entire child care home or center is responsible for continuing to implement those best practices. Creating a written physical activity and screen-time policy demonstrates that your child care home or center is dedicated to the health and well-being of the children under your care.