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Whether you have a toddler, preschooler or young school-aged child, involve him in a variety of different activities.


If you have an infant, you can still involve him in different activities. Every day you can do the following with your infant:

  • read
  • cuddle and hold
  • talk
  • take him on errands
  • give him age-appropriate and safe infant toys

  • Read to him at least 20 minutes every day.
  • Show him family pictures.
  • Give him age-appropriate puzzles and games.
  • Teach him how to care for plants or pets.
  • Give him educational toys or toys that inspire imagination (such as puppets, sandbox, dolls, trucks, clay, paints or crayons).
  • Encourage play acting (such as being a vet or playing house) and imaginative play.
  • Take him with you when you run errands or go shopping. Try to schedule fun things, too. Go to the zoo, science or children's museum, on little or big road trips.

Find activities that boost your child's self-esteem and help him share and get along with others.


Exercise provides many benefits to your growing child. It helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints. It also can prevent or delay the development of high blood pressure.


Children ages 2 to 5 years should play actively many times a day. Short bursts of activity add up!

Always make sure that your child has appropriate safety gear when being active.

You don't need to enroll your child in an expensive exercise program. Take her to the playground or on walks, or enroll her in community sports programs.

  • Get her moving in physical activities, including sports (such as swim or martial arts).
  • Encourage her to get involved in physical activity that she can enjoy into adulthood (such as walking, running, swimming, basketball, tennis, golf or bicycle riding).
  • Plan physical activities with family and friends. Remember, you are a role model!
  • Physical activity should be fun. Don't focus only on winning.
  • Don't let her sit around for long periods of time.

Limit the amount of TV your child watches

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), by the time the average child turns 18, he will see 200,000 acts of violence on television. By the time that child turns 70, he will have spent seven to 10 years watching TV!

The AAP does not recommend television, video or screen time for any child younger than age 2. The Academy does not recommend putting a TV in an older child's bedroom.

It may be difficult, but don't let your TV become your babysitter. Plopping your child in front of the TV while you do housework (or rest) isn't helping him. The connections being built in your child's brain during his first few years of life are critical.

Instead of watching TV, your child should be spending time listening to you read and sing, playing with you, looking at pictures and listening to music.

Once you do let your child watch TV, please consider the following guidelines.

  • After age 2, limit the amount of TV he watches to one to two hours or less each day. This includes video and computer game use.
  • For every hour of TV watched a day, have your child do one hour of physical activity (such as running, skipping, riding a trike or going for a swim).
  • Watch TV with your child to answer questions or explain what is happening. He could be easily frightened or influenced if you are not there to talk with him. Ask your child questions such as, "Do you think this is pretend or real?" "Is this how we act in our home?" "What do you think would happen if you acted this way?"
  • Tell your child why you don't approve of certain shows and why you approve of others.
  • Watch educational programs as much as possible.
  • Turn off the TV one night a week for family time (such as reading, playing board games or listening to music together).
  • Put a TV in a common area of your home. Do not put a TV in your child's bedroom.
  • Tell your child you disapprove of violent behavior.
  • Talk about nonviolent ways to resolve conflict.

Limit your child's video and computer screen time

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting the time children spend playing video and computer games to less than one to two hours a day (including TV time).


For more information on The American Academy of Pediatrics, visit the organization's website:

If your child is younger than 5, be sure to give him age-appropriate games and supervise him during use.

Set guidelines for your child and the Internet. Make sure your child:

  • understands that people online may not always be who they say they are
  • doesn't try to buy something online
  • doesn't give out passwords or any personal information
  • doesn't try to meet in-person with someone who chatted with (wrote to) him online

With your help, the Internet can be a valuable educational resource for your child. Surf the Internet together, set time limits, visit appropriate websites, teach your child not to click on pop-up ads or advertising links, set limits on whom he emails, and watch for spam or other unwanted mail.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition

To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."

First published: 02/01/2010
Last updated: 01/01/2014

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic