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Australian Guidelines

girls in snow tube

Australian Guidelines

Many of the foundations for a healthy lifestyle are set down in early childhood. Here are some key facts and recommendations on physical activity and healthy eating to help get your child off to a good start in life.

Physical activity

The Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (birth to 5 years) recommend that:

  • Infants (0-12 months) – physical activity particularly supervised interactive floor-based play in safe environments – is encouraged from birth.
  • Toddlers (aged 1-2 years) spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of physical activities, including energetic play, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Pre-schoolers (aged 3-5 years) spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of physical activities, of which at least 60 minutes is energetic play, spread throughout the day; more is better.

Fundamental movement skills

Fundamental movement skills are the building blocks for the more complex skills that children need to play active games and sports at school or in the community.

Parents can help by giving young children fun opportunities to learn and practice skills, such as:

  • running
  • jumping
  • hopping
  • skipping
  • leaping
  • side sliding
  • galloping
  • catching
  • kicking
  • overarm and underarm throwing
  • stationary dribbling
  • striking a stationary ball

For more information and a demonstration of these skills please see Campaigns & Programs > Munch & Move Resources > Fun Moves Videos

Sedentary Behaviour

The Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (birth to 5 years) recommend that:

  • Children younger than 2 years do not have any sedentary screen time.
  • Children aged 2-5 years have no more than 1 hour of sedentary screen time; less is better.
  • Infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers engage in pursuits such as reading, singing, puzzles and storytelling with a caregiver when they are sedentary.

Sleep

The Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (birth to 5 years) recommend that:

  • Infants (birth to 1year) are recommended to have 14 to 17 hours (for those aged 0-3 months) and 12 to 16 hours (for those aged 4-11 months) of good quality sleep, including naps during the 24 hour period.

  • Toddlers (1-2 years) are recommended to have from 11 to 14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps during the 24-hour period with consistent sleep and wake-up times.
  • Pre-schoolers (3-5 years) are recommended to have 10 to 13 hours of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with consistent sleep and wake-up times.

Healthy eating

Babies and infants

Breastmilk is the ideal food for your baby and the only food that he or she needs for the first 6 months of life.

The best time to introduce solids is around 6 months of age, however, it is recommended that a mother should continue to breastfeed her baby for at least 12 months – and longer if mother and baby wish.

Young children

For young children (aged 2 to 8 years), the recommended, daily minimum number of serves of the five food groups are shown below.

Source: The Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013)

 

Age
(years)

Fruit
(serves/day)

Vegetables
(serves/day)

Grains
(serves/day)

Meats
(serves/day)

Dairy
(serves/day)

 

girls

boys

girls

boys

girls

boys

girls

boys

girls

boys

2-3

1

1

21/2

21/2

4

4

1

1

11/2

11/2

4-8

11/2

11/2

41/2

41/2

4

4

11/2

11/2

11/2

2

 

Examples of what a serve means for each food group:

  • 1 serve of grains = 1 slice of bread, ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta or porridge, noodles, barley, quinoa, polenta, 2/3 cup wheat cereal flakes, 1/4 cup of muesli
  • 1 serve vegetable = ½ cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup salad or ½ medium potato 
  • 1 serve fruit = 1 medium or 2 small pieces, 1 cup of unsweetened canned fruit. Only occasionally ½ cup of fruit juice or 30g of dried fruit
  • 1 serve milk = 1 cup (250ml) milk, 3/4 cup of yoghurt, 1 cup of soy, rice or other cereal drink with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml, 2 slices of hard cheese
  • 1 serve meat or alternative = 65g cooked meats such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat. 80g of cooked chicken, 2 eggs, 1 cup cooked or canned legumes/beans.

Parents and carers should offer foods from each of the five food groups regularly and encourage children to eat them. However, don’t try and force children to eat food – this can just make food refusal worse.

There is evidence that young children need to be exposed to a new food up to 10 times before it is liked or accepted. It’s worth persevering!

Beyond the five food groups are 'sometimes foods' which include biscuits, cakes, desserts, pastries, sugary drinks, lollies, chocolates, crisps, pies, pasties, sausage rolls and other takeaways. These have low nutritional value and are high in energy (kilojoules), which can contribute to children putting on weight. Parents and carers should only offer these 'sometimes foods' occasionally and in small amounts.