Every parent wants their child to grow up healthy, but instilling those healthy living habits can be a struggle. Especially today in the age of technology, children are going outside less and don’t really have the motivation to leave their screens and exercise. The way to instill lifelong fitness goals is to start when your child is a toddler. You can begin before then too, but infants don’t really have a lot of muscle control or fine and gross motor skills.

How to Begin
From birth to one year old, encourage your child to be active. You can do this by giving them opportunities to move around and be active. You can also help them by moving their arms and legs and providing toys that require them to move and manipulate parts. Also, cut down on screen time, which usually means T.V. at this point in your child’s life.

At around 2-3 years of age, you can begin teaching your child about different sports and active games. Children this age should have 30 minutes of structured physical activity and 60 minutes of unstructured activity. Structured activity can include:
•    Sports and games with rules (tag, soccer, t-ball, etc.)
•    Motor skill work (throwing, catching, hand-eye coordination games)
For unstructured activity, your child just needs to play around. Allow her to go to the park and simply play with other children or play with her older siblings. Allow her creative freedom around the house and encourage her to build forts, work on craft projects, or you can even take her for a walk. Also, you shouldn’t allow her to engage in any type of sedentary activity for more than 60 minutes at a time.

How to Keep It Going
Now that you know what to do, you need to keep it going. That means that you need to develop a routine for physical activity. To ingrain the habit, structured and unstructured physical activities should happen around the same time every day. Perhaps this means unstructured play time in the morning and afternoon. If you have a babysitter, then instruct them on how to provide opportunities for play during specific times of the day.

When you or your spouse gets home from work, choose a specific time to engage in structured play time. Perhaps this means working on a specific skill for 30 minutes such as how to catch and throw a ball. You child will come to expect this activity each day and will eventually grow into an adolescent with ingrained fitness habits.

Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Development. "Parenting Series ." Physical activity in early childhood: setting the stage for lifelong healthy habits. Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Development, 1 Apr. 2011. Web. 14 Feb. 2014.