Kids Should Sit Less and Play More, Says World Health Organization

When it comes to play, more is better.

That’s the word from the World Health Organization in a new set of guidelines for parents across the globe.

Parents who want their children to grow up healthy should create time and space for their kids to play, the organization states.

“What we really need to do is bring back play for children,” says Dr. Juana Willumsen, the organization’s point person on childhood health. “This is about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime, while protecting sleep.”

Adding to a Growing Chorus 

The guidelines from world health officials add to a growing chorus of child-development experts calling for kids to play more. Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged doctors to issue a “prescription for play” to parents and families, noting that play fosters social, emotional and physical development while reducing stress.

“Play more” is a message that Minnesota Children’s Museum champions, too.

“Play is a path toward happier and healthier children,” says Dianne Krizan, president of Minnesota Children’s Museum. “That’s why we’re doing what we can to join forces with parents in our community to inspire more play.”

Less Screen Time, More Play

The WHO report, focusing on children under age 5, lays out recommendations for amounts of time infants and toddlers should spend restrained or watching screens versus playing and sleeping.

Guidelines suggest no screen time for kids under age 2 and no more than an hour per day for children 4 and under. The WHO experts recommend toddlers should be playing and doing other physical activities at least three hours per day.

Bottom line: Kids should play more, sit around less and get the right amount of sleep. Results: Better physical and health with less childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life.

WHO experts endorse the type of open-ended play that lets kids explore freely. The WHO report states:

“Play is defined as being for its own sake (without a specific goal), voluntary, enjoyed by participants and imaginative.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Links to Learn More

World Health Organization: To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more

American Academy of Pediatrics: Pediatricians have role in promoting healthy development through play

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