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

  • Read to your child at least 20 minutes every day.
  • Show them family pictures.
  • Give them age-appropriate puzzles and games.
  • Teach your child how to care for plants or pets.
  • Give them 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 your child 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 them share and get along with others.

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

  • read
  • cuddle and hold
  • talk
  • take them on errands
  • give them 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! Always make sure that your child has appropriate safety gear when being active.

Visit to create a family media use plan.

Physical activity

Physical activity provides many benefits to your growing child. It's important for emotional development and also helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.

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

  • Get your child moving in physical activities, including sports (such as swim or martial arts).
  • Encourage your child to get involved in physical activity that they 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 your child 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 them. The connections being built in your child’s brain during their 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 choose to start allowing screen time, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting it to no more than 1 hour of high-quality programs each day. Watch these programs with your child to help your child better understand them.
  • Children age 2 to 5: Limit your child to no more than 1 hour of high-quality programs each day. Watch these programs with your child to help your child better understand them.
  • Children age 6 and older: Set consistent limits on screen times. Make sure screen time does not get in way of sleeping, physical activity, homework and family time. Children need screen-free playtime for social and emotional development.

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. Your child could be easily frightened or influenced if you are not there to talk with them. 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) them 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 they email, 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