Posted 15/05/2019 12:53:34 PM by Tanya Colaco

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released new guidelines on “physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under five years of age.” Specifically, it provides recommendations for sedentary screen time, suggesting no more than one hour per day for children ages two to four.

The guidelines were developed by a WHO panel of experts that looked at the effects of poor sleep, screen time, and sedentary behaviour on children. Evidence supporting increased physical activity was also reviewed. 

“Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life,” says Dr. Fiona Bull, a program manager at WHO.

Perhaps what’s surprising in this digital age is that these guidelines are the first of their kind from the WHO. What is extremely positive is that the recommendations detail the importance of establishing healthy habits early in life.

As early as infancy, the WHO provides recommendations for physical activity (floor-based play), screen time (none), and sleep (lots!).

To simplify suggestions, consider a child’s pattern of activity in a 24-hour time frame:

  • Replace prolonged restrained or sedentary screen time with more active play.
  • Ensure children under five get enough quality sleep (see age-appropriate guidelines).
  • Spend sedentary time with children engaging in non-screen activities, such as reading, storytelling, singing, and puzzles.
  • Keep track with our printable activity log.
  • Need some inspiration? Visit Recipe for an active day and Recipe for an active year for more fun ideas.

To read more about the WHO guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep for children under five, check out the full document here.

For fresh ideas and real solutions to cut out screen time, check out Screen-Free Week and screen time resources.

Helpful resources related to this article:

How to keep screen time in check

AFL printable activity log

AFL recipe for an active day

AFL recipe for an active year

WHO guidelines news release

WHO guidelines

Screen-Free Week

Screen time activities

- By Jaime Neefs

Active for Life

Active for Life is a national initiative created to help parents raise physically literate children. At, parents, educators, and coaches will find fun activities, engaging articles, and free resources to get kids active, healthy and happy. Sign up for Active for Life’s monthly newsletters. Connect with Active for Life on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

This article was originally published on Active for Life's blog.

Active for Life

About Tanya Colaco

Tanya is the Digital Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the YMCA of Greater Vancouver. She’s an avid foodie, enjoys learning new things and loves to travel. Tanya is also an “animal person” and can never resist petting any cat or dog that crosses her path!

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