When first introducing your little one to exercise, focus on fun. Encouraging physical movement in any form will help build your child’s motor skills. The technique can come later; for now, getting to enjoying being active is the goal.

Children two to three years old should be getting a fair amount of physical activity per day. Some of this will come naturally from free play. Toddlers have lots of energy to burn, and they want to burn it.

Good ways to increase your toddler’s active time could be:

  • Having a dance! Moving to music can help build a rhythm, confidence, and gross motor skills.
  • Chasing bubbles.
  • Running away from the ‘tickle monster.’
  • Practicing throwing and catching. If it’s not nice outside, use a pair of rolled-up socks inside (instead of a ball).
  • Going for walks. Walking is a great way to get your little one familiar with nature or your neighborhood and a good chance to bond and talk.
  • ‘Helping’ in the garden or with cleaning. Practicing sweeping, raking or pushing, and pulling requires motor skills.

Mixing it up

In the age of screens, children have more reasons to be sitting down: video games, phone apps, television. If they have been stationary for an extended period, try to get your toddler up and about. You might even consider setting boundaries around ‘idle time’ to ensure this is kept to a reasonable amount.

Leading by example

If your toddler sees you exercising, it is likely they will be interested in following suit. Being a physically active role model can teach your little one the importance of taking care of our bodies.

If you’ve never been one for organized sport or solo exercise, you could try something else that you can model for your toddler. It might be a quick walk, some daily stretching, learning yoga, or even building a short at-home workout routine. Encourage your tot to try and copy your movements, or run around while you stretch outside.

Try getting interested in a sport with your little one, especially as your child gets older. This is easy if you’re a sports fan – you probably can’t wait to get your little one cheering for your favorite team or athlete. If you’re not a sports fan, consider picking a sport you may be interested in learning about. Watching matches together and talking about rules and sportsmanship could help build positive associations with physical activity and sport.

Choosing a sport

Look into organized sports programs for toddlers. Modified programs can offer your little one a chance to socialize, learn new skills, become familiar with sports, and move their body. Fun is more important than the competition at this stage of a child’s life. It can be valuable to have your little one try their hand at a variety of sports and see which one they enjoy the most.

Encourage your tot to play a sport that matches their motor skill development. If they’re not physically ready to join an organized group, pushing them to do so could be stressful and turn them off sports. Give them time to develop an interest and practice their motor skills before signing them up for any team commitments.

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