Physical Activity

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Physical Activity

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Screen Time

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Healthy Food

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Healthy Beverages



Increase Physical Activity

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than one-quarter (24%) of children 6 to 17 years of age participate in 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Lack of physical activity can increase the risk of obesity due to more energy being taken in through diet than is used through physical activity. It also increases the risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and low bone density.

Promoting participation in physical activity among infants and young children is critical to their overall health, development of motor skills, development of social skills, and maintenance of healthy weight. Daily physical activity promotes young children’s gross motor development and provides many health benefits. Some of the benefits include improved fitness and heart health, healthy bone development, improved sleep, and improved mood and sense of well-being.1

Physical activity habits learned early in life may continue into adolescence and adulthood. Early care and education programs can support the children they serve in the development of lifelong healthy physical activity habits.

Increasing Physical Activity ECE Best Practices

  • All children, birth to 6 years of age, should participate daily in:
    • Two to three occasions of active play outdoors, weather permitting.
    • Two or more structured or caregiver/teacher/adult-led activities or games that promote movement over the course of the day—indoor or outdoor.
    • Continuous opportunities to develop and practice age-appropriate gross motor and movement skills.
  • All children, birth to 6 years of age, should have opportunities for outdoor play:
    • Infants (birth–12 months of age) should be taken outside 2 to 3 times per day, as tolerated. There is no recommended duration of infants’ outdoor play.
    • Toddlers (12 – 35 months) and preschoolers (3–6 years) should be allowed 60 to 90 total minutes of outdoor play.
  • Toddlers and preschoolers should engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity:
    • Toddlers should be allowed 60 to 90 minutes per 8-hour day for moderate to vigorous physical activity, including running.
    • Preschoolers should be allowed 90 to 120 minutes per 8-hour day for moderate to vigorous physical activity, including running
  • Infants should have supervised tummy time every day when they are awake, and caregivers/teachers should interact with an awake infant on his/her tummy for short periods (3–5 minutes).

1American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, and National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. 2012. Preventing Childhood Obesity in Early Care and Education: Selected Standards from Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs, 3rd Edition.


ABC’s of a Healthy Me Session Two: Watch session two of our FREE six-part online training titled ABC’s of a Healthy Me. Session two reviews the physical activity best practice areas for promoting a healthy weight in children 0 to 5 years old in the ECE setting. Complete all six sessions to earn
1 continuing education unit.

Healthy Kids, Healthy Future: Healthy Kids, Healthy Future is a nationwide call-to-action that empowers child care and early education providers to make positive health changes in children that could last a lifetime. On their website, you can find trainings and resources focused on how to get kids moving.

Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) Early Childhood: CATCH Early Childhood is designed to nurture a love of physical activity, provide an introduction to classroom-based gardening and nutrition, and encourage healthy eating in children ages 3-5. Little ones are motivated to walk, run, jump, dance and move their whole bodies while playing and having fun. Visit their website for information on trainings, curriculums and materials.

Go NAPSACC: Go NAPSACC works with child care providers to improve the health of young children through practices, policies, and environments that instill habits supporting lifelong health and well-being. Visit their website to access flexible modules and resources focused on key topics like healthy eating, physical activity and oral health.