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Home Sectors ECE Limit screen time and avoid baby walkers: New guidelines for preschoolers

Limit screen time and avoid baby walkers: New guidelines for preschoolers

Reconsider that baby walker and discourage all screen time for under-2s - that's the advice in the first official guidelines for how active preschoolers should be.


By: Nicholas Jones

New guidelines discourage the use of mobile baby walkers. 

The Ministry of Health guidelines cover children aged under 5 and discuss physical activity, play, sleep and screen time.

Obesity affects about 7 per cent of New Zealand children aged 2 to 4 years. The guidelines recommend:

  • Provide regular activity breaks to limit the time a child spends sitting, and limit time in equipment that restricts free movement.
  • Discourage screen time for under 2s, and limit it to less than an hour a day for older preschoolers.

Babies between 9 and 24 months who have had their movements restricted have been found to be heavier, the ministry notes, and research has found mobile baby walkers can restrict muscle development and lead to injuries and falls.

“This is because muscular development happens in a specific sequence. Each stage is important for programming the central nervous system and musculoskeletal system to enable a child to progress through each stage of their development in the appropriate order,” the guidelines state.

“Some baby jumpers allow the baby to just touch the floor, which can push the body forwards and the head back. This means the baby is not using their hip or gluteal muscles. If baby jumpers are used regularly for long periods, children may find it difficult to put their feet flat on the floor, which can delay progression to walking.”

The ministry and the Australian Physiotherapy Association discourage the use of mobile baby walkers because of risk of injury from falls and because they can restrict muscle development.

“While it is assumed baby walkers can improve the time it takes for a child to start walking, research has found that they may actually delay the development of independent walking skills.”

The guidelines note parents often feel compelled to introduce “educational TV”, and children are naturally attracted to screens.

“But this does not mean screens are good for them. Under-5 should spend as little time as possible watching screens and more time playing both inside and outside.”

Move more

  • Provide activities that support physical, social, emotional and “spiritual” growth for at least three hours every day for toddlers, spread throughout the day.
  • Include opportunities for active play that develop basic movement and competence and provide sufficient challenge to build resilience and encourage creativity. Involve nature in activities.
  • Developing balance is important through activities such as balancing on steps and planks, stretching and bending, rolling or sliding, and headstands.

Updated guidelines for school-aged young people (aged 5 to 17 years) were released this month.

“Sleep well”

  • Babies (birth to three months) should have 14 to 17 hours of quality sleep every day.
  • Infants (four to twelve months) should have 12 to 15 hours sleep a day.
  • Toddlers (one to two years) should get 10 to 13 hours, including at least one daytime sleep. Bedtime should be before 8pm.
  • Preschoolers (three to four years) should have 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day, with consistent bedtimes and wake-up times.

Poor sleep early in life is associated with poorer health outcomes in later childhood, including obesity.

Health Minister and Sport and Recreation Minister Jonathan Coleman released the new guidelines and said they would help families.

“New Zealand is the first country to integrate sleep with its advice for parents and caregivers of children under five years, which shows a more holistic approach to children’s health and development.”

The release comes after updated guidelines for school-aged young people (aged 5 to 17 years) were released earlier this month.

Source: NZ Herald


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