Getting toddlers moving 1 – 3 years
Toddlers want and need to be physically active; they have lots of energy to use and they need to experience all kinds of different movement to develop their strength, balance and coordination.
Get them out of their pushchair and let them experiment with how their body moves. Encourage them to balance in different positions, they might topple over, but this is all part of their learning and development, so they get steadier and stronger.
Toddlers should be active for 180 minutes (3 hours) a day. It might sound a lot, but it soon adds up from lots of little activities throughout the day. It doesn’t always have to be structured activities and can be achieved through play and exploration.
Top tips for getting toddlers moving
Babies and toddlers love music especially if they can move to it with you. Try different party games like musical statues. As they get older take it in turns to make up different funny moves and dances.
‘Messy’ play is a great way to give your child lots of different sensations and it helps them to develop hand and finger coordination.
Let your toddler make you a ‘mud’ pie, fill buckets or empty tubs with different textures e.g. porridge, dry rice, water, sand or leaves. Encourage them to fill the containers up with large spoons and get me to transfer the mixture from one to another, this helps my hand-eye coordination.
Encourage different types of movement
Now your toddler is walking, add some more fun, like asking them to speed up, slow down, take big strides, tip toe, walk tall, walk small, stomp and jump too. See if they can go sideways and backwards. Bubbles are a great way to help your toddler move by chasing, grabbing and kicking.
Play is the most important activity for the children under 5 years. It’s how they learn about themselves, the world around them and their place in it. Through play, your child will develop their physical, learning and social skills.
Show your toddler how to play, get down on their level, this will help them to engage with you. Involve their senses in play; smell, touch, taste, sight, listening. Encourage your child to play by:
- turning off the television and make plenty of time for play throughout the day
- take play outside as well as indoors.
- leave toys out for your child to use over time if you can, to allow the play scene to continue over several days
- join in with your child at times, following their lead. Let them decide what you will do and how you’ll do it.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to play and your child should be able to play in their own way.
Toddlers love going on adventures and they can explore, climb and crawl without even leaving the house. Grab a cardboard box so they can hide in it and peek out at you, you could even make a home-made den using bedsheets and cushions.
Try making a balancing path for me to follow, or a tightrope for me to walk along with chalk or tape, see if I can do it without stepping off, make it shorter or longer, or send it in different directions
For more information about how to keep your toddler active visit
Download the recommendations for physical activity from birth to 5 years