Adding physical activity to a city-dwelling toddler’s life

Is Baby a city kid? Like any other environment, living in the city creates a trade-off for the families who live there. And while city-dwelling toddlers may have great access to museums, attractions, and activities around every corner, they also may have fewer chances to tumble around a backyard, climb small trees, or generally do the kind of exploring of the natural world that children who grow up in other places might.

Benefits of exercising

This means that city-dwelling toddlers (and their families) may need to make a little extra effort to make sure tots are getting the exercise they need. After all, city streets aren’t always the best place to experiment with a new tricycle. Maybe Baby seems like they're always in motion anyway, but toddlers need more exercise than adults or even older children do. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers shouldn’t be still for longer than an hour at a time. Toddlers should also get at least an hour of unstructured exercise in a day, and at least half an hour of structured physical activity, which might include games, classes, or other adult-directed activities.

More than that, children who are physically active, especially in ways that are deeply intertwined in their day-to-day lives, like walking to get somewhere, has been linked to increased concentration and academic success. And what parent hasn’t wished once in a while for their toddler to just focus a little more?

Adding in a little extra exercise

Parents of city toddlers may need to be a little more creative to let their little ones get some of that energy out, but there are plenty of ways to make sure cosmopolitan toddlers move around as much as any other tots.

If there are only so many times you want to go to the playground in a week, consider having Baby use some of that energy in a different way.

  • Team up: If exercise is part of your routine, think about ways you can include Baby in that. If you usually bring them along on run in a jogging stroller, maybe you could institute regular breaks for them to get out so you can both walk together. If you do yoga in your home, give Baby something to use as a mat, and watch them copy you!
  • Everyday exercise: Baby may have needed a stroller’s help every time you took them along to run errands with you when they first started walking, but now you may be able to ask them to stand on their own two feet when you’re out and about, at least for shorter trips. Early on, it’ll make sense to leave a little extra time for Baby to walk more slowly, but you’ll be surprised by how fast they start to keep up, and walking with you will build up their stamina fast.
  • City opportunities: In some ways, it’s much easier to find ways to keep Baby active in the city – there are any number of classes (including toddler sports), community centers, wading pools, and other structured and unstructured ways to keep busy that can only be found in a city.

Baby probably also lets you know exactly which ways they do and doesn’t want to stretch their legs, arms, and other body parts. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging them to try something new, though! 

  • “Active Start–Physical Activity Guidelines for Children Birth to Five Years.” naeyc. National Association for Sport and Physical Education. May 2006. Retrieved July 10 2017.
  • “Toddler – Physical Activity.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved July 10 2017.
  • R.R. Joens-Matre, et al. “Rural-urban differences in physical activity, physical fitness, and overweight prevalence of children.” Journal of Rural Health. 24(1). 49-54. Winter 2008. Retrieved September 7 2017.
  • Dann Vinther. “Children who walk to school concentrate better.” Science Nordic. Science Nordic, November 30 2012. Retrieved September 7 2017. 

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