Although 19 months of age sounds early to start your child on a formal exercise plan, it is important for children to have a balance of active and quiet play from the youngest age. Active play helps promote children's health and development. Physical activity such as crawling, walking, running, climbing, and jumping develop children's muscle strength, coordination, and fitness. It also allows children to explore their environment, take on challenges, develop new skills, and gain self-confidence. Outdoor play has the added advantages of allowing children to explore nature and maximizing their exposure to fresh air.
For toddlers, the keys to encouraging physical activity are to build it into your daily routine and to make it fun. When you're at home, turn on different kinds of music and dance together. Play hide and seek, and chase your daughter around the house. Set up an obstacle course of sofa cushions to crawl over. Try to take your daughter outdoors every day. Have her join you when you go out to get the newspaper or walk the dog. Walk around the block and point out pretty flowers, rocks, birds, and bugs. Go to a local park and let her run around the grass, dig in the sandbox, and use the toddler swings, slide and climbing structures. Consider signing up for a baby gym or mother-child exercise or swim class. Most importantly, be sure that you're a good role model for her—let her see how you enjoy physical activity every day.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.