As most parents can attest, toddlers require little, if any, motivation to move their bouncy little bodies. However, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education reports that many toddlers from 30 to 36 months of age fall woefully short of the suggested 60 to 90 minutes of daily exercise. To ensure your toddler gets the needed exercise, lead the way.
Riding a Bicycle
Even though many toddlers still haven’t learned how to balance on a bicycle by the age of 3, your tyke can ride a tricycle or a bike with training wheels. Resist the thrifty, but unsafe, urge to pick a bike for your toddler to grow into, but instead select a bike that fits your toddler properly for her current size. Choose a bike on which she can comfortable reach both the pedals and handle bars and that she doesn’t have to struggle to touch the ground with her feet. Start out with short rides, just around the block, until your toddler builds up some stamina, or go to a park. Keep a close eye on your toddler while riding because it only takes a split-second for her to pedal into danger.
Toddlers love to kick; sometimes it’s your prized ficus tree by the front door. For a more constructive outlet of energy, teach your toddler to play ball. By 2 years of age, most toddlers can kick a ball and by 3 years they can catch, albeit with some practice on their part and a little lip-biting on yours. Roll the ball on the ground and urge your toddler to chase and kick it. Show him how, if needed. Teach your toddler basketball by tossing a ball into a bucket or laundry basket. For toddlers with advanced skills, T-ball, a game of baseball where the ball is hit off a stand, is an option. Contact your recreation department to find organized leagues for toddlers in your area.
Parks and playgrounds are amazing places to engage your toddler in healthy activities while letting her interact with other toddlers. At 30 to 36 months of age, your toddler has developed sufficient body strength to successfully navigate swing sets, jungle gyms and slides. Push her on the swing and teach her how to kick her feet. Help her climb the ladder on the slide and tell her to wait until you walk around to the front before she slides down, so you will be in position to catch her.
If a park isn’t close by, or one that has equipment for toddlers, build an obstacle course in your yard or even inside if you live in an apartment. Set up a few lawn chairs, boxes or other object in a pattern, such as a figure-eight. Run though the course with your toddler or have her ride her bike around the obstacles. Cut the bottoms out of cardboard boxes and duct tape them together to make a tunnel to crawl through. Cut off the box flaps and tape them together, end to end, to make one long strip. Lay the taped-together cardboard strip on the floor and teach your toddler to walk on the strip, simulating walking on a balance beam.
For their own safety, and to get exercise, toddlers should swim. Many recreation departments offer swimming classes specifically for toddlers. Alternatively, get some water-wings and take your toddler into the shallow end of a pool. Encourage her to move her arms through the water in “swimming” motions. Never take your eyes off your toddler when she is in or near the water.