Your pregnancy and baby guideHow to keep your baby or toddler active
Ways to get your baby moving
- Lay your baby down on their back so they can kick their legs.
- Pulling, pushing, grasping and playing with other people are great ways to practise different kinds of movements.
- Once your baby has started crawling, let them crawl around the floor, but make sure it's safe first – see our crawling safety checklist.
- Playing outdoors helps your baby learn about their surroundings.
- You can take your baby swimming from a very young age – there's no need to wait until they've been vaccinated.
See Start4Life for more activity tips for babies.
Why tummy time is important
Tummy time helps to build the muscles your baby needs for sitting and crawling. You can start doing tummy time from birth by lying your baby on your chest – but only do this when you're wide awake and unlikely to fall asleep.
Little and often is best to begin with. Gradually increase the amount of time you do this day by day. Then, when your baby is ready, try doing tummy time on the floor. If your baby has difficulty lifting their head, you can roll up a towel and put it under their armpits. Put some toys nearby for them to reach out to.
Only do tummy time when your baby is awake and alert, and you're there to keep an eye on them.
Baby bouncers, walkers and seats
It's important that your baby doesn't spend too much time in:
- baby walkers or bouncers – these encourage babies to stand on their tiptoes and can delay walking if your baby uses them a lot
- baby carriers and seats – long periods in reclining carriers or seats, or seats that prop your baby in a sitting position, can delay your baby's ability to sit up on their own
If you do use a baby walker, bouncer or seat, it's best to use them for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
Physical activity for toddlers
Once your child is walking, they should be physically active for at least 180 minutes (three hours) a day, spread throughout the day.
- Let your toddler walk with you rather than always using the buggy.
- Toddlers and young children love going to the park, where they can climb and swing or just run around.
- Toys your child can pick up and move around will help improve their co-ordination and develop the muscles in their arms and hands.
- Involve your toddler in household tasks like unpacking shopping, tidying or sorting washing.
- Teach your child songs with actions and encourage them to dance to music.
Watching TV or using a tablet for long periods – or being strapped into a buggy, car seat or highchair – isn't good for young children.
If you need to make a long car journey, consider taking a break and getting your child out of their seat for a bit.
Enjoy being active together
It's good to join in with your child's active play when you can. Have fun showing them how to do new things like running and hopping. Being active together shows your child that activity is enjoyable.
You're a role model for your child so stay active yourself and try to meet the physical activity guidelines for adults.
There may be activities for parents and children at your local leisure centre or Sure Start Children's Centre.
Activity for young children with a disability
All babies and young children need to be active, including children with a long-term condition or disability, unless their health professionals give you different advice.
Just like other children, they will enjoy being active and it will help their development. You may need to adapt some activities to suit your child.
Coping with a very active toddler
It can be exhausting keeping up with a toddler who is always on the go. It may help if you:
- keep to a daily routine – routine can help if your child is restless or difficult; it can also help you stay calm and cope with the strain
- dedicate time to your child – make sure there are times each day when you give them your full attention
- avoid difficult situations – for example, keep shopping trips short
- try to go out every day – go to a park, playground or other safe, open space where your child can run around and use up energy
- set small goals – help your child to sit still and concentrate for a very short time, perhaps on a book or new toy, then gradually build it up
Does my child have attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
At times you may wonder if your non-stop toddler has ADHD. But only about 2% of children in the UK have ADHD. It's more likely that your child is just a healthy, energetic toddler.
If you're worried about how active your child is, talk to your health visitor or GP.
Page last reviewed: 20/04/2016
Next review due: 20/04/2019