Your Baby & Toddler - - FEATURES -

An ac­tive baby is a healthy baby. Pearl Rantsekeng finds a re­ally handy – and proudly South African – move­ment sched­ule for new­borns, ba­bies and tod­dlers

FOR HEALTHY GROWTH and de­vel­op­ment, all of us – in­clud­ing small ba­bies – need to move. Ev­ery sin­gle day.

And so we’re eter­nally grate­ful to se­nior re­searcher Dr Catherine Draper and her team from Wits Univer­sity for draw­ing up the South African 24-hour Move­ment Guidelines for Birth to Five Years, with the sup­port of the Lau­reus Sport for Good Foun­da­tion (go to lau­reus.co.za).

The guidelines in­clude phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, sit­ting, screen­time and sleep. They’re based on the best avail­able re­search in early-child­hood de­vel­op­ment, ex­pert con­sen­sus, stake­holder con­sul­ta­tion and – most im­por­tantly – what’s re­garded as im­por­tant and ap­pli­ca­ble across all South African set­tings. Plus they’re con­sis­tent with World Health Organizati­on guidelines.

Chil­dren should play and get enough sleep – this is what the guidelines rec­om­mend. “Chil­dren who are en­cour­aged to meet the move­ment guidelines are likely to grow up health­ier, fitter and stronger.

“They may also have greater mo­tor skill abil­i­ties, be more pre­pared for school and man­age their feel­ings bet­ter,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.


MOV­ING This en­tails be­ing phys­i­cally ac­tive through in­ter­ac­tive floor-based play, in­clud­ing crawl­ing. Ba­bies who are not yet mo­bile can have about 30 min­utes of tummy time spread through­out the day, which can in­clude other move­ments such as reach­ing and grasp­ing.

SIT­TING While sit­ting, your baby can play with safe ob­jects and toys, have baby con­ver­sa­tions with you or her care­giver, singing and telling sto­ries. Ba­bies should not be strapped in and un­able to move for more than an hour at a time, be it in a pram, high chair or even when strapped on some­one’s back.

SLEEP­ING For ba­bies aged zero to three months, at least 14 to 17 hours, while ba­bies aged four to 11 months must get 12 to 16 hours of good qual­ity sleep, in­clud­ing naps in the day.


MOV­ING At least 180 min­utes spent in a va­ri­ety of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing en­er­getic play.

SIT­TING Your baby can en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties such as singing, read­ing, build­ing puz­zles or blocks as well as sto­ry­telling.

SLEEP­ING At least 11 to 14 hours of good-qual­ity sleep, which in­cludes naps in the day with con­sis­tent sleep and wake-up times.


MOV­ING At least 180 min­utes spent in a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties, of which at least 60 min­utes, spread through­out the day, is en­er­getic play that raises the heart rate and makes her “huff and puff” – th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties could in­clude run­ning, danc­ing and jump­ing. SIT­TING Your tod­dler can read, sing, play puz­zles, do arts and crafts and tell sto­ries. Screen­time, if al­lowed, should not be more than an hour per day. Less is bet­ter.

SLEEP­ING Ten to 13 hours of goodqual­ity sleep, which may in­clude a nap, with con­sis­tent sleep and wakeup times.


MOV­ING Su­per­vised daily tummy time of 30 min­utes should take place on a safe flat sur­face. If your baby strug­gles dur­ing (she might cry after a short while), shorten tummy time to about five to 10 min­utes, a few times over the day.

Make tummy time fun and stim­u­lat­ing by hold­ing or scat­ter­ing ageap­pro­pri­ate toys just out of your baby’s reach to en­cour­age her to move, lift her head up and look around. This is good for your baby’s phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and helps her build her strength and get ready to crawl. SIT­TING In­stead of screen­time, rather read, tell sto­ries or sing to your baby. Th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties sup­port her de­vel­op­ment and will help you connect with her.

When it’s nec­es­sary to have your baby strapped in while they’re awake (like in a pram), try your best to give them safe tummy breaks ev­ery hour be­tween be­ing strapped in.

SLEEP­ING Es­tab­lish reg­u­lar bedtime habits (for ex­am­ple calm­ing your baby down in a quiet room, singing to her be­fore sleep). This may help baby get enough and bet­ter sleep.


MOV­ING Ac­tiv­i­ties great for get­ting baby mov­ing and play­ing for three hours each day in­clude danc­ing to mu­sic, jump­ing and climb­ing, as well as play­ing games such as hide and seek. Climb­ing and crawl­ing over and un­der ob­sta­cles such as ta­bles and chairs or on a jun­gle gym is good for her phys­i­cal and brain de­vel­op­ment.

En­cour­age your baby to play with toys (such as balls and bean bags). It will teach her skills like kick­ing, catch­ing and throw­ing. Start with big­ger balls, like soc­cer or blow-up balls, as they are eas­ier for ba­bies to man­age. Progress to smaller balls like ten­nis balls over time.

Play games such as twirling and run­ning with stream­ers, blow­ing bub­bles and chasing them through the air with you or older sib­lings. Th­ese games help your baby learn and de­velop healthy fam­ily re­la­tion­ships.

For ba­bies who can crawl, cre­ate ob­sta­cle cour­ses with safe soft toys such as teddy bears, or even big­ger ob­sta­cles such as pil­lows and blan­kets. En­cour­age move­ment and play dur­ing bath­time.

SIT­TING Ba­bies younger than two years should not be al­lowed to play with screens.

SLEEP­ING Es­tab­lish a sleep rou­tine by hav­ing con­sis­tent bed­times at night and wake-up times in the morn­ing.

Read a bedtime story, or sing or tell sto­ries – be they make-be­lieve or real.


MOV­ING Get your tod­dler mov­ing for three hours ev­ery day by do­ing fun ac­tiv­i­ties like danc­ing, play­ing with dif­fer­ent-sized balls and play­ing games like fol­low the leader and hide and seek. Do­ing th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties, with a parent or an older si­b­ling, is good for her phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and gross mo­tor skills.

Make sure your tod­dler gets at least one hour per day of en­er­getic play. Run­ning, jump­ing and en­er­getic games will help her heart, bones and mus­cles get stronger.

SIT­TING En­cour­age sit­ting ac­tiv­i­ties that will help your tod­dler get ready for pri­mary school (such as draw­ing, paint­ing, build­ing puz­zles or play­ing with dough).

Re­duce screen­time to less than one hour per day by set­ting screen­time rules (for ex­am­ple no screens at the din­ner ta­ble), or only al­low 15 min­utes of screen­time after en­er­getic play outside. Try your ut­most to stick to th­ese rules.

SLEEP­ING Es­tab­lish a sleep rou­tine, and en­sure that your tod­dler has a safe, quiet place where she man­ages to sleep well. Well-rested chil­dren are more likely to be­have bet­ter and con­cen­trate at pre-school.

Avoid screen­time be­fore bed, as this may make it dif­fi­cult for your tod­dler to fall asleep. Rather read to her, or get her to talk about her day at pre-school.


✓ Get in­volved! Re­mem­ber, you’re the most im­por­tant role model in your child’s life. By be­ing ac­tive with your child, you can en­cour­age her lifelong en­joy­ment of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity – while ben­e­fit­ting your own health at the same time.

✓ Choose toys that en­cour­age ac­tiv­ity. For in­fants, boxes, pots, pans and hoops can en­cour­age reach­ing, stretching, crawl­ing and mov­ing. For ba­bies and tod­dlers, choose toys and play ma­te­ri­als such as balls, bats, tri­cy­cles and kites – with su­per­vi­sion – that en­cour­age move­ment and help de­velop skills. Play ma­te­ri­als don’t need to be ex­pen­sive and can be found around the house.

✓ When you can, in­volve all of the fam­ily – try walk­ing to the park, play­ing soc­cer in the back­yard, or going to the zoo as a spe­cial treat.

✓ En­cour­age chil­dren to be in­de­pen­dent and to ex­plore the world around them. Al­low them free­dom to cre­ate, imag­ine and di­rect their own play while main­tain­ing a safe en­vi­ron­ment. This will help your child’s con­fi­dence grow.

✓ Com­pet­i­tive sport is not rec­om­mended for chil­dren un­der five years. Some great al­ter­na­tives in­clude struc­tured ac­tiv­i­ties such as water fa­mil­iari­sa­tion, recre­ational gym­nas­tics and dance taught by qual­i­fied in­struc­tors.

✓ Be­ing out­doors is best – just make sure kids have sun pro­tec­tion, such as sun­screen, hats and shade. If the weather is just too hot or cold, stay in­doors and build a play­house, or play hide and seek.

Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion was ob­tained from the meet­ing of the con­sen­sus panel on the guidelines as well as the Australian na­tional health de­part­ment.

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