LET’S GET PHYSICAL
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.
NEWBORN (UP TO ONE YEAR OLD)
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.
BABY (ONE TO TWO YEARS)
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.
TODDLER (THREE TO FIVE YEARS)
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.
WHAT CAN I DO?
✓ 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.