Sedentary behaviour is a concept you may have heard about, it means any activity that you do either sitting or lying down (with the exception of sleeping). Even if you are physically active, there are health benefits to breaking up the time we spend sitting down, whether it be in front of a screen at our desk or anywhere else. This is also true for babies and the Australian Government recommends that parents and caregivers encourage free movement wherever possible.
Sedentary behaviour is a little different for babies. It includes screen time (sitting or lying down and watching TV or using a phone or tablet). It also includes any time that their movement is restricted (apart from sleeping), such as when they are in a:
- baby rocker
- stroller or pusher
- play/activity centre
- car seat,
- held in someone’s arms, or
- in a sling or baby carrier.
You are encouraged to help your baby break up the blocks of time they remain restrained, to no more than 1 hour at a time. By encouraging free movement, baby will have more opportunities to develop their skills (motor skills, cognitive, self-regulation, social and emotional development) by playing and exploring within their environment and there are more opportunities for bonding with you and the family
When your baby is having some sedentary time encourage activities that help develop cognitive and social skills like playing with blocks or reading a book with them. And once family mealtimes are over, get them out of the highchair for to allow free movement during playtime.
Ways you can encourage free movement:
Create a safe play area
- By creating a safe space, you can ease your mind and be able to put baby down to explore independently. Ensure that the area:
- Is free of any potentially dangerous objects such as poisons, sharp objects and choking hazards
- Put these items in a cupboard or drawer that has a child safety lock
- Is equipped with installed safety switches and power point covers
- Has sturdy and safe furniture
- TV’s and bookshelves are mounted to the wall; sharp corners of furniture are covered; chairs near any windows are removed
- Has windows that are locked and curtains, chains, or cords shorter than 5cm are elevated/tied up above 1.6m from the floor
- Has safety gates set up at the top and bottom of any stairs and at entrances to balconies
- Has lots of their toys around so they have things they can touch and play with
[Before putting baby down, do a quick check by getting down to their eye level to check if there are any hazards.]
Take an active break with baby
- For babies not yet crawling tummy time is a great way to encourage free movement and helps build their muscles
- Reading them a book while they are on their tummy can be an alternative to being seated
- Place baby on a blanket and slowly drag it around the room: this will prepare them for the sensations forward crawling brings
- If your baby has started crawling try setting up an obstacle course (using cushions, soft plush toys) and try to get baby to chase you
- Take a trip to your local playground so they can explore the outside world,
- bring a blanket along to have tummy time outside (if baby not yet crawling)
For more game recommendations and tips to encourage free movement:
Visit https://www.infantprogram.org/ for more information on joining INFANT sessions in your local area or download the My Baby Now app here.
Learn more about screen time in one of our other blog posts: A mindful approach to screen time with your baby