Healthy Activity Habits for Children

Topic Overview

It is important that your child be physically active—daily. Physical activity is essential for lifelong health and well-being. A child can't be healthy if he or she isn't playing actively most days of the week. It is important that your child has fun, so don't force your child to exercise. Instead, find activities that he or she likes to do and will do voluntarily. You can help your child stay active and healthy by:

  • Being a good role model—be active yourself.
  • Creating opportunities for your child to be active for at least 1 hour each day. One way to increase your and your child's activity is to break the time up into several 10- to 15-minute periods of vigorous exercise throughout the day, doing activities such as running, jumping rope, or playing soccer.
    • Plan family activities that involve exercise. Go hiking or biking, wash the car, or walk around a mall. Offer choices, and let your child play.
    • Make physical activity part of daily routines. For example, walk with your child to do errands, or walk to the bus stop or school, if possible.
    • Join other families and create "neighborhood" time with group activities like touch football, basketball, or hide-and-seek.
    • Let your child try different organized activities to see what he or she enjoys, such as tennis, T-ball, soccer, or martial arts.
  • Allowing your child to pick out a low-cost toy at the store, a toy that promotes activity—such as a jump rope, Frisbee, or ball—instead of a food treat.
  • Setting limits on daily computer and television "screen time" to no more than 2 hours a day.
  • Assigning every family member daily, weekly, or monthly tasks that involve physical activity, such as housecleaning chores, weeding the garden, or washing the car. Rotate the schedule of tasks to keep your family interested.


Author Christine Wendt, R.D., L.D.
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Updated September 8, 2009

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