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Toddler - Physical Activity


​Information ab​​out the onset and patterns of risk behaviors associated with overweight and obesity during the toddler years are showcased in the link below. Visit the section titled Desired Behaviors to learn about how to promote healthy active living during the toddler years.​ 

​​View Toddler ​​Timeline​

Desired Behaviors

Based upon evidence, a number of desired behaviors were identified as critical to helping families foster healthy active living for their toddler. For each desired behavior you can explore the evidence, learn what parents told us about these behaviors, identify opportunities to promote healthy behaviors at the point of care, review how to start conversations and access messages and resources to support families. Also available to inform your counseling is the Onset and Patterns of Risk Behaviors for Toddlers Timeline located above this section.​

Active ​Play: 

Dedicate time every day for active play


    Many children less than 5 years of age fail to meet the physical activity CDC guide of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day​. 

    Sedentary activity for young children has been shown to range from 32.8 to 56.3 minutes per hour. 

    Some research indicated that 2 to 5-year-olds should engage in 2 or more hours per day of physical activity. 

    Parent Feedback

    Parents had the misconception that because toddlers seem so busy and active, they do not need dedicated time for physical activity. 

    Parents expressed a desire for children to be more still, not more active. 

    At the same time, parents saw value in focusing time on physical activity and wanted ieas and strategies for age-appropriate activity. ​

    Opportunities for Care

    A knowledge gap exists about need for toddlers to be active. Educate parents that even busy toddlers need to develop large motor skills and foster coordination, and this is accomplished through active play. 

    Share developmentally appropriate strategies for active play time. 

    Encourage physically active family activities. Discuss ways to make it part of the daily routine. 

    Encourage both structured and unstructured play. 

    Counsel parents on the excessive use of strollers. ​

    Conversation Starters

    What kind of activities does your toddler enjoy? 

    What do you enjoy doing with your toddler?

    Can you tell me about outdoor play spaces that are available for you and your toddler?

    What types of activities are available to your toddler in childcare?

    Can you tell me more about the quiet activites your toddler likes?​

    Related Parent Resources

    HALF Message(s):
    Because they are so naturally active, it's easy to overlook the fact that toddlers need daily physical activity - just like you do! Toddlers need time every day to run, climb, and jump. 

    Good habits start early in life, so make play time active time. 

    HALF Resources: 
    For realistic parent derived strategies for active play, refer parents to the following sections on

    ​     Quick Tipes: Keep Your Child Healthy widget. Simply select Physical Activity to generate the results. 

         Physical Activity for Toddlers​

    Also take advantage of the HealthyGrowth app to create personalized patient education for your patient. 

​​Screen Ti​me: 

Limit TV exposure to less than 2 hours/day
Avoid commercials and advertisements
No TV's in children's bedrooms


    61 percent of of children younger than 2 are exposed to television and spend approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes a day in this activity​.

    30 percent of children aged 0 to 3 have televisions in their bedroom

    In children aed 2-5, exposure to more than 2 hours per day of television significantly increases their risk for obesity. 

    Televisions in children's bedrooms increase the impact of television on weight status. 

    Parents often place televisions in bedrooms because they believe it will help the child sleep. 

    Parent Feedback

    TV was viewed as educational, and almost like "preschool" at home. 

    Screen time was also viewed as down time or break time (a way tokeep the child still and safe while a parent can get things done). 

    Any messages to avoid TV and other educational games via smart phones, tablets, computers, etc., need to be realistic. ​

    Opportunities for Care

    It is important to ascertain current family values around TV and offer alternatives to TV time. ​

    Remind parents that one of the best ways for children to learn is through play and human interaction. 

    Also discuss the importance of sleerp routines and that TV can actually disrupt healthy sleep. 

    For this age group, help parents identify strategies to limit:

         the amount of TV watched​

         exposure to advertisements

    Caution against: 

         placing a TV in their child's bedroom

         replacing TV time with screen time (smart phones/tablets/computer)

    Explain that setting limits now regarding screen time establishes expectations about screen use that can carry forward and help to eliminate negotiations and battles as children grow. 

    Conversation Starters

    Can you tell me about your toddler and TV watching​? 

    Can you tell what programs your toddler is watching?

    Did you know that commercials are a link between TV watching, weight gain, and unhealthy eating habits?

    Would you like to talk about ways to reduce exposure to commercials?

    Many parents think TVs in the bedroom are a good thing. how do you feel about it? 

    Does your child enjoy computer time or play on your phone or tablet? 

    Related Parent Resources

    HALF Message(s): 
    We understand that managing your kids' TV time can be a struggle. Even if you can't cut out TV completely, cutting back on TV will help. 

    HALF Resources: 
    For realistic parent derived strategies for managing screen time refer parents to the following sections on

         Quick Tips: Keep Your Child Healthy widget. Simply select Screen Time to generate the reults. 

         Physical Activity for Toddlers

    Also take advantage of the HealthyGrowth app​ to create personalized patient education for your patient. ​