Toddlers need 30 minutes or more of structured physical activity and at least 1 hour of unstructured physical activity every day. Activity does not have to be all at one time; toddlers should be active throughout the day. Active toddlers:

  • Sleep better at night
  • Grow strong bones and muscles
  • Reach a healthy weight
  • Feel better about themselves
  • Get along with friends

You may think your toddler is already active enough, but young children still need planned physical activity every day. Learning basic movement skills such as running, jumping, throwing, and kicking are important to your child's physical and mental development.

What counts as physical activity?

Toddlers need two kinds of physical activity:

  • Structured activities are done with or led by an adult and get your toddler active and moving around. Examples of structured activities are:
    • Ring around the rosy
    • Follow the leader
    • Duck-duck-goose
    • Kicking a ball back and forth
    • Playing catch
    • Riding a tricycle or a bike with training wheels
    • Walking and moving like different animals (hop like a frog, walk like a penguin)
  • Unstructured activities are when your toddler plays creatively and explores in a supervised environment. This type of activity is sometimes called "free play". Examples of unstructured activities are:
    • Dancing
    • Playing at a playground
    • Swimming (with an adult)
    • Digging and building in a sandbox

Is my toddler doing enough physical activity?

To get the most health benefits from physical activity, toddlers need:

  • 30 minutes or more of structured physical activity every day
  • At least 1 hour of unstructured physical activity every day
  • To be active for part of each hour of the day (unless they are sleeping).

Toddlers don't have to do 30 minutes of structured activity all at once-it can be spread throughout the day.

How can I help my toddler be physically active?

  • Give your toddler plenty of chances to be active
    Children need parents to make activity easy by taking them to parks, playgrounds, and other active spots. Find parks in your area.
  • Be a role model
    Participate in activities with your toddler and make sure you are being active on your own. Learn how to be an active parent on our Move More page.
  • Keep the focus on fun
    When toddlers enjoy an activity, they want to keep doing it.
  • Practice a skill
    Practicing a skill, whether it's swimming or learning to ride a bike, can make kids want to continue the activity.
  • Don't be a couch potato
    Unless your toddler is sleeping or resting, help your child stay active throughout the day. Avoid letting children under age 2 watch any TV. After age 2, limit your toddler's time spent watching TV and playing video or computer games to 2 hours a day. (Reading books is okay!)

How do I keep my toddler safe during physical activity?

Watch your toddler at all times
Toddlers are naturally very active, but they do not know how to stay safe. That means they still need a parent or trusted adult to keep them safe. Always watch your toddler when they use play equipment like bikes and jungle gyms. Check out this playground safety checklist (PDF).

What if my toddler has a physical disability?

It is important for children of all abilities to be active every day. Check with your doctor for advice and visit the National Center for Physical Activity and Disability's Program Directory for more information.


This information is provided by the Department of Public Health.