Children should be encouraged to be physically active, beginning at birth, through daily exposure to structured, age-appropriate activities that develop their motor skills and enhance their aptitude for exercise, say the first ever physical-activity guidelines for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
The report is available for $10 for NASPE members and $13 for others by calling (800) 321- 0789.
“We think that parents and day-care providers have a misconception that children are just physically active [naturally] and they get all they need in any given day,” said Jane E. Clark, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland College Park. “There is too much evidence that says children are spending an awful lot of time sedentary.”
Several reports have been released over the past decade that have highlighted the importance of exercise in preventing obesity and illness in adults and school-age children. None has addressed the physical development of younger children and its importance in their overall well-being.
Caregivers need to plan physical activities for children each day and set specific goals for building movement, according to the task force of medical professionals, exercise physiologists, and motor-development experts that wrote the guidelines for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, based in Reston, Va.
The group’s report, “Active Start: A Statement of Physical Activity Guidelines for Children Birth to Five Years,” sets five guidelines each for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Infants, for example, should be encouraged to explore their environments and be given opportunities for becoming skillful movers through rolling over, sitting up, standing, and walking. Toddlers should have safe places to roam, indoors and outdoors, and get at least 30 minutes of structured activities daily. Preschoolers should accumulate at least 60 minutes of structured physical activity daily and several hours of unstructured movement, the guidelines say.
No child should be confined to a stroller, car seat, or chair for more than 60 minutes a day, except when sleeping, the report says.
While the guidelines emphasize the need for well-planned activities, “they don’t necessarily mean there should be a checklist of jumping jacks and other things,” said Barbara A. Willer, the deputy executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, located in Washington. “This should be done in the context of play and routine activities.”
A version of this article appeared in the February 13, 2002 edition of Education Week as Experts Map Physical-Activity Guidelines for Young Set