Physical Activity and Play

Physical Activity for Children


4 years old

Physical Activity

Your 4-year-old needs at least 180 minutes of physical activity each day. Have fun playing with your child. You are their role model. Make physical activity a part of everyday.

Not sure how much or what kind of physical activities are good for your child? Check out the Canadian 24 hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years.  

Active children: 

  • Play outside
  • Walk, run, and dance
  • Hop and jump
  • Play with balls, bubbles, and ride-on toys
  • Like activities that get them moving

To get your child moving:

  • Create safe play spaces
  • Play music and move to it
  • Dress for the weather and go outside
  • Play with other children
  • Get where you're going by walking

Sedentary Activities and Screen Time (4 years old)

Sedentary activities involve very little movement. Screen time is a common sedentary activity. Using tablets, playing on phones, and watching TV are examples of screen time. Monitor your child’s screen time. Less is best.

How much screen time should I let my 4-year-old have?

  • Children between 2 and 4 years old should have less than 1 hour of screen time each day

When your child needs some downtime, activities like reading with a parent and craft activities are a good choice.  

To reduce sedentary behaviour:

  • Limit the use of strollers
  • Set rules about screen time
  • Keep electronic devices out of bedrooms
  • Play outside

Follow this link from Active for Life to learn more about how active play supports your child physical development, language development, mental health and road safety skills. 

5 to 11 years old

Active living is important for healthy growth and development. Children need to move throughout the day. Not sure how much or what kind of physical activities are good for your child? Check out the Canadian 24 hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth.   

Your child (5-11 years) needs at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and up to several hours of light activity each day. 

  • Vigorous activities will make your child sweat and be 'out of breath'. Running and swimming are examples.
  • Moderate activities will make your child sweat a little and breathe a little harder. Bike riding and playground activities are examples.
  • Light activities will not make your child sweaty or out of breath but they will still be moving. Walking slowly and chores like sweeping are examples. 

Being active for 60 minutes a day helps children:

  • Improve their health
  • Do better in school
  • Grow stronger
  • Have fun playing with friends
  • Feel happier
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Improve their self confidence

To get your child moving:  

  • Play tag
  • Go to the playground after school
  • Walk, bike, rollerblade or skateboard to school
  • Play an active games
  • Go sledding in the park on the weekend 

Need some ideas? Visit the Active for Life website for fun outdoor activities and information about basic movement skills.

Sedentary Activities and Recreational Screen Time (5-11)

Sedentary activities involve very little movement. Screen time is a common sedentary activity. Using tablets, phones, computers and playing videos games are examples of screen time. Your child may need to use screens for schoolwork and that’s okay. Monitor and limit your child’s screen time that’s not for schoolwork.  

How much screen time?

Children 5 years and older should have no more than 2 hours of screen time per day of recreational screen time.

Physical Literacy

Children develop physical literacy by learning fundamental movements like running, jumping, throwing and catching. Learning how to do these movements well gives kids the skills and confidence to be physically active for life. 

Children who are physically active are healthier and happier. There’s research to prove it! Check out the Active for Life website to read about the science behind physical literacy.

Want to learn more about physical literacy? Check out the Active for Life website with resources for parents.


Do you have more questions about parenting?

  • Connect with a registered nurse from Health811 for free, secure, and confidential health advice. Service is available 24/7 in English and French, with translation support also offered in other languages. Call 8-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with a Community Navigator from 2-1-1 for information about community programs and resources across Eastern Ontario. Helpline service is available 24/7 and in many different languages. Call 2-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with other parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page.
  • There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa.
  • You can update your child's immunization record using either the CANImmunize App or the Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) Tool
  • If you have received a message from Ottawa Public Health such as a letter or a call regarding immunization, an infectious disease, or infection control lapse, please call 613-580-6744 and listen to the menu options carefully.


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