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

  • 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.

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

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

 to create a family media use plan.

Physical activity

Physical activity 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.

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.

What to know about screen time

The first two years of life are critical during the growth and development of your child’s brain. Your child needs positive contact with other children and adults. Too much screen time can have a negative affect on your child’s brain development. This is especially true when your child is learning to talk and play with others.

It may be difficult, but don’t let an electronic device 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.

Screen time includes watching television and using cellphones, video games, computers and other electronic devices.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following for screen time:

  • Children younger than 18 months: No screen time, except for video-chatting.
  • Children 18 months to 24 months: If you want to introduce screen time to your child, choose high-quality programs and watch them with your child.
  • Children age 2 to 5: Limit your child to 1 hour or less of high-quality programs each day. Watch these programs with your child to help him better understand them.
  • Children age 6 and older: Set a screen time limit that is right for your child and the whole family. It’s important that screen time never replaces healthful behaviors such as physical activity, sleep and interaction with others.

Once your child starts having screen time, please consider the following guidelines. 

  • For every hour of TV watched a day, have your child do 1 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.
  • Eat family meals together. (Turn off cellphones and the TV!)
  • 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.


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, and 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, and set limits on whom he e-mails, and watch for spam or other unwanted mail.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022