Physical Activity and Your Child’s Sleep

Have you ever tried to mimic all your child’s movement for an hour? I lasted only 15 minutes! It’s amazing how active young children are and how obvious it is when they haven’t had the outlet to burn this energy. It not only affects their behavior, but also their sleep.

As most parents of young children quickly find out, the best way to keep up with your child’s activity is to schedule a playdate with another child. Even the most active mother can’t keep up to their toddler, but a friend can keep your little one busy for hours.

However, with this current pandemic, families have been locked out of their usual activities. Sports are limited, household visits are banned, and meet-ups have a number of restrictions. Without these typical play dates and playground time, your child is likely not getting nearly as much physical activity as they’re used to.

Below, I share some ideas to help burn toddler energy when you’re stuck at home either from a pandemic or rainy-day post-pandemic.

The Relationship Between Physical Activity and Sleep

So, what does this topic of physical activity have to do with your child’s sleep?

Even outside a pandemic, physical activity is an important topic in relation to sleep training. Have you noticed that the days that you spent long hours at the park, your child sleeps solidly?

A 2009 study from the Department of Pediatrics, University of Auckland, studied the relationship between sedentary activity and sleep latency. Sleep latency in laymen’s terms is the time it takes a child to fall asleep. The study found that for every hour of sedentary activity, your child will take an average of 3.1 minutes longer to fall asleep. Conversely, the more active your child, the lower the sleep latency.

Three minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but after a few nights, it compounds and affects their mood and activity throughout the following day. Your child will be more lethargic, which makes them less active. Then your back to square one – an inability to fall asleep quickly. It becomes a vicious cycle.

This cycle runs the risk of creating an overtired child. Overtiredness has the opposite affect than you think at bedtime. It makes sleep more elusive as cortisol levels rise.

Fun Activities for Your Toddler

child activity and toddler sleep

With sleep in mind and to help parents survive when playdates aren’t possible, I’ve created a simple list of energy-burning activities for you and your toddler.

1. Dance
Who doesn’t love to dance? Switch on a YouTube video of a kid’s Zumba routine or follow the Just Dance Kids channel and let your child boogie on down. You might have to hear their favorite song on repeat, but it’s for the greater good.

2. A Bike Ride
This is a quick and easy way to use up your child’s energy. To keep up, kids have to pedal faster and harder than adults. Another benefit is that your child is outdoors enjoying the changing scenery. You can also make a chalk racetrack on your driveway for your child to go in loops.

3. Kid’s Yoga
It’s really a thing – kid’s yoga and they love it! They are naturally flexible and “watch this pose, mom” will have them thrilled, especially if you can’t do it. Plus, yoga helps your child practice mindfulness and serenity. Cosmic Kids Yoga has some amazing follow-along videos. The instructor incorporates popular kid’s stories into her routines and it’s pretty great.

yoga for children

4. Hello Neighbor
This is a fun game to do with a neighbor. I learned about it at the beginning of the pandemic when socially distanced games were a priority. Each family hides an extra key outside, each kid searches for a key and whoever unlocks the other’s door first is the winner.

5. Scavenger Hunt
A classic activity that not only has your child running from one area to another, but also encourages curiosity. If it’s raining outside, you can create a scavenger hunt indoors. There are lots of great lists and ideas on Pinterest.

What’s your go-to energy-burning activity with your child?

Whatever you choose, make sure your child is getting enough activity to help them fall asleep with ease. Incorporating and prioritizing physical activity also teaches your child about the importance of an active lifestyle. It also benefits their sleep, mood, and overall well-being.

If your child is struggling to fall asleep at night, we’d love to chat about your routine. Book your call below.

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