Play, screen time and sleep for 0-5 year-olds

By Dan Prigmore

Advanced Physiotherapist

The time from birth to five years old is one of rapid physical and cognitive development. It is also a time during which a child’s habits are formed, and family lifestyle routines are evolving.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released its recommended play, screen time and sleep guidelines for 0-5 year-olds. These guidelines are relevant for all children under 5 years of age, irrespective of gender, cultural background or socio-economic status of families.

However, it is important to note that caregivers of children with a disability or those with a medical condition would be best to seek extra guidance from a health professional.

WHO’s recommendations are as follows:

Physical activity recommendations for 0-5-year-olds:

Infants (less than 1 year) should:

  • Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, mainly through interactive floor-based play (more is better)
  • For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in the prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.

Children 1-2 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day (more is better)

Children 3-4 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day (more is better)

Sedentary time recommendations for 0-5-year-olds

Infants (less than 1 year) should:

  • Not being restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers, highchairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back)
  • Screen time is not recommended.
  • When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

Children 1-2 years of age should:

  • Not being restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers, highchairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods.
  • For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour (less is better)
  • When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

Children 3-4 years of age should:

  • Not being restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers) or sit for extended periods.
  • Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour (less is better)
  • When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

Sleep time recommendations for 0-5-year-olds

Infants (less than 1 year) should:

  • Have 14-17 hours (0-3 months of age) or 12-16 hours (4-11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps

Children 1-2 years of age should:

  • Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times

Children 3-4 years of age should:

  • Have 10-13 hours of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times

You can read WHO’s full 36-page report here.

At Therapy Focus, our Physiotherapists can support children and families to ensure they are getting enough exercise and meeting physical activity recommendations.

Want to know more?

For more information about our services for children and young people with disability, contact us on 1300 135 373.