Using screen time to encourage physical activity: 3-11 years

Using screen time to encourage physical activity: 3-11 years

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Screen time and physical activity

Getting up and moving around is important for your child's energy levels, development, sleep, and overall health and wellbeing.

Sometimes screen time and screen use can mean children sit still for too long without a break. But it doesn't have to be this way - you can use screen time to get your child moving.

Ideas for using screen time to encourage physical activity

Here are some ways to combine screen use with physical activity:

  • Plan a walk with your child using a digital map.
  • Take photos of interesting things you see on a walk. You can look at them later and talk about what you saw, or you could draw a map and add the photos to it.
  • Video your child learning a new skill like hopping, riding a bike, or doing a new skateboard trick. You can replay the footage so your child can see himself learning.
  • Watch videos set in places you'd like to visit together. For example, you could watch a video set at a beach, then go to the local beach.
  • Choose videos or apps that encourage your child to dance and sing along, or games that involve moving, like dancing games or virtual sports simulators.
  • Bring your child's screen time interests into off-screen play. For example, your child could dress up as a favourite TV character or use dolls and figurines to act out scenes.
  • Make use of natural breaks like advertisements or the end of game levels. For example, you could see how many star jumps you and your child can fit in before the ads finish.

Modelling screen time and physical activity

What you do and say guides your child's behaviour and attitudes in most things, including screen use. Your child is strongly influenced by the way you use screens and will copy what you do.

For example, if your child sees you sitting using a screen for long periods, she'll think screens are mostly for sitting still. But if your child sees you using screens to get moving, she's more likely to use screens for physical activity too.

Here are some ways you can be a role model for combining screen time with physical activity:

  • Show your child how you track your physical activity. You can talk about how good it feels to see how far you walked, cycled, swam or ran last week.
  • Show your child how you look up instructional videos before you do things that are physically active. For example, watch a video on how to pot a plant and then go outside and plant one.
  • Share your favourite physical activity apps with your child - for example, apps that guide you through dance or yoga. You could also try different yoga poses or dance routines together.

Get more ideas in our articles on physical activity for young children, physical activity for school-age children and physical activity: getting children involved.

Australia's physical activity guidelines for children

Being active every day is an important part of your child's routine.

Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend:

  • children aged 1-5 years should be physically active for three hours a day
  • children aged 5-18 years should have at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.