Kids need a combination of exercise, sleep, and downtime to thrive, but parents need help figuring out how to fit it all in.
Schools, doctors' offices, and public health campaigns are brimming with advice for parents. 'Don't let your child have more than an hour of screen time per day.' 'Make sure your child participates in vigorous activity for at least 60 minutes per day.' 'Ensure your child gets 10-12 hours of sleep each night.'
These commandments can feel overwhelming and difficult for parents to manage. As a result, many children spend too much time in front of screens and too little time moving and sleeping. This is why a group of medical professionals, health care providers, and physical educators in Canada have come together to produce the first-ever '24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years.'
The guidelines are unique because they consider all aspects of a child's health -- sweat, step, sleep, sit -- and how those various activities should fit into a 24-hour period. It's designed to help parents visualize and implement a healthier division of children's time.
Dr. Mark Tremblay, director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, one of the organizations involved with the guidelines' creation, said in a press release:
"All types of movement matter, and a balance of moving, sleeping and sitting is required for optimal health. Even if a child is getting sufficient physical activity in a day, the health benefits can be reduced by too little sleep, or too much sedentary behaviour — especially if that time is spent in front of screens. Following these guidelines through the early years is associated with healthy growth, better learning and thinking, improved motor development, higher fitness level, increased quality of life and reduced injuries."
It's smart to look at the broader picture of healthy habits, rather than compartmentalizing them; and it's likely going to incentivize parents to pull the plug on screen time if they know it's to create space and time for other important things, like sleep and exercise.
The following graph depicts a recommended day for 5- to 17-year olds: