Physical exercises for your baby, toddler, and pre-schooler

Physical exercises for your baby, toddler, and pre-schooler

As an adult, we all know that physical exercise is one of the three pillars of good health. Good food, good sleep, and a good workout routine can keep us in the best shape. But is the same true for your little munchkin? Does your 3-month-old baby need exercise too? Read on to know more.

Why do infants/babies need exercise?

Even though you may think that your baby is just lying around for the most part of the day, in reality, she is doing a lot with her tiny muscles. Her small movements say, reaching for a toy kept slightly ahead in front of her, all count as exercise in her case. Exercising builds strength in muscles, joints, and bones. It improves your baby’s coordination, flexibility, and balance. It also supports their brain development, helps them feel relaxed and sleep better, helps them learn better at school, and of course, helps them to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Physical activity is crucial for the overall good health of your infant/baby and helps to avoid chronic lifestyle diseases once your little one is older.

What exercises should I do with my baby?

The type of exercises you can do with your baby will vary according to their age and medical restrictions, if any. Here is a list of suitable exercises for your baby as per their age:

Physical exercises for babies under 1 year

From birth to 1 year, babies are recommended to have some form of supervised physical activity for a small duration every day. Playing on the floor under supervision in a safe environment for around half an hour is a rough measure of physical exercise that your baby needs at this age. At this age, babies are just learning to move around. Gripping fingers, crawling, reaching and grasping a toy, pulling and pushing, and moving their head and limbs are physical exercises that your baby can do before she turns one. One of the most essential exercises for your baby at this age is tummy time.

During tummy time, you need to lay your baby down with his tummy on the floor or carpet. Tummy time helps your baby to build multiple muscles — neck, shoulders, back, stomach, and arms — it is almost a full-body workout for your little one! Initially, your baby may have a hard time doing this exercise as her muscles are not strong yet, even when her muscles develop, you still might need to offer support to her neck till she can hold herself up. Focus on gradual strength building. Increase your baby’s tummy time gradually from 3-5 minutes a day to around 20-30 minutes. To keep your baby engaged and make sure that she is comfortable and enjoying it, treat this time as playtime. Get a few toys, sing to her, make funny noises together, and she is sure to have a great time, and healthy muscles!

Here are a few more ideas for activities you can do with your infant:

Assistive sit-ups:

You can start doing assistive sit-up exercises with your baby around 6 weeks. When he is lying down on the back, grasp his forearms and gently pull him towards you. At first, you might be able to pull him up only a few inches, but as he grows older, he will advance into a full sitting position. Assistive sit-ups are a great way to strengthen your baby’s shoulders, core, arms, and back muscles and to build balance.


Bicycling involves moving your little one’s legs gently in a bicycling motion. It is a natural method to relieve gas, colic, or constipation. But apart from that, this movement is a good workout for your baby’s legs, knees, hips, and abs. It increases your baby’s range of motion and flexibility.

Lifting objects/ Weight lifting:

Your baby will usually start grasping objects at around 3-4 months of age. Picking up objects like rattles, toys, or any suitable lightweight safe object is a great way to build his grasping ability. But not just that, this activity also helps to improve your little one’s eye-hand coordination and develops the muscles in their arms, shoulders, and hands.

Toe-to-ear move:

This move helps to strengthen your baby’s core and leg muscles. Lay down your baby on his back with legs as straight as possible. Within the natural range of motion possible for your baby, gently move his right toe to touch the left ear and vice-versa. Remember to be gentle and not use any excessive force.

Physical exercises for toddlers (1-2 years)

Toddlers are recommended to have at least 3 hours of physical activity spread out throughout the day. Babies become more active at this age. They learn how to crawl and move around the house, they learn how to stand up, and walk and run! All of these movements are forms of physical exercise and train their body to become stronger. These movements also develop your baby’s eye-hand coordination. Try to include both structured and unstructured physical activity time in your baby’s routine, and treat this time as playtime. For structured play, you could play games like throwing a ball together or playing with blocks. Unstructured playtime could look like a playdate with another toddler or just you both running around the house or backyard. Riding a bike, playing in the water, and chasing/ ball games are the best active play ideas for this age group.

Physical exercises for pre-schoolers (3-5 years)

Preschoolers are also recommended to have at least 3 hours of physical activity per day, including active and outdoor play. For this age group exercise can take many more forms. Running, skipping, jumping, swimming, riding a tricycle, riding a bicycle, climbing on playground equipment, and dancing are some great ways to ensure that your pre-schooler stays active and healthy. Try to have one hour out of the three reserved for moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise, the rest two hours can be comparatively low-intensity exercise. At this age, you will need to be careful with your kid’s screen time or other sedentary activities. Physical exercise is crucial for your little one’s overall growth, and at this age, it is important to inculcate healthy habits that encourage an active lifestyle. You can create a family screen time plan or create ground rules for your preschooler's screen time. Try to educate them early on about the importance of physical exercise and involve them in the decision-making, and try to lead by example.

Physical exercise is important for babies too, not just adults. It offers multiple benefits for their physical, mental, and social well-being. Depending on their age group, you can try to incorporate structured, unstructured, low-intensity, and high-intensity physical exercises in their daily routines. Good physical health as a kid will allow them to be competent and strong enough to participate in sports when they grow up, along with enjoying all the other benefits of an active lifestyle. It will also safeguard them against the chronic lifestyle diseases that so many of us grapple with as an adult. We hope that this article helps you to plan your next active playtime with your little one!

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