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Guidelines for the Early Years (0 - 4 years)
Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for the Early Years (0-4 years)


For healthy growth and development, caregivers should minimize the time infants (aged less than 1 year), toddlers (aged 1-2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3-4 years) spend being sedentary during waking hours.  This includes prolonged sitting or being restrained (e.g., stroller, high chair) for more than one hour at a time.

  • For those under 2 years, screen time (e.g., TV, computer, electronic games) is not recommended.
  • For children 2-4 years, screen time should be limited to under one hour per day; less is better.

The lowdown on the slowdown: What counts as being sedentary?


Sedentary behaviours are those that involve very little physical movement while children are awake. Examples are sitting or reclining for prolonged periods in a stroller, high chair or car seat, watching television, watching television or playing with non-active electronic devices.


Screen time: Includes activities such as watching television or playing with non-active electronic devices such as video games, tablets, computers or phones.  The Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines describe the recommended amount of time to which children should reduce their involvement in sedentary pursuits.


What does this mean?


For healthy growth and development, parents and caregivers are encouraged to limit sedentary behaviours in infants and children at home, in childcare, at school and in the community.  In particular, sedentary screen time can have negative effects on children’s physical and mental development. The guidelines place a high priority on avoiding screen time in the earliest years of kids’ development.


Even if your child is meeting or exceeding the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, we advocate a ‘whole day’ approach to healthy living, which includes reducing sedentary time and increasing physical activity, as this minimizes health risks. We want your children to be less sedentary and more physically active –it is helping with chores instead of using the TV as a babysitter, getting outdoors and exploring, running, dancing, reducing sitting and screen time–any activities that reduce idle time!


Spending less time being sedentary can help young kids:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Develop social skills
  • Behave better
  • Improve learning and attention
  • Improve language skills

How to cut down on sitting down. 


Too much screen time is associated with unhealthy body weight, poor behaviour and learning skills. By spending less time being sedentary, you improve health outcomes.


To reduce young children’s sedentary time, parents and caregivers can:

  • Limit use of playpens and infant seats when baby is awake.
  • Explore and play with your child. Stop during long car trips for playtime.
  • Set limits and have rules about screen time. Keep TVs and computers out of bedrooms.
  • Take children outside every day.

For information on increasing a young child’s physical activity, see the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for the Early Years.


To view the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for the Early Years information sheet, please click here.


To view the matte article on the guidelines release, please click here.


For a downloadable version of the content above please visit our online Toolkit.