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Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well: Active play guidelines for under-fives

author:Ministry of Health


"These are the first activity guidelines that support families to raise healthy under-fives by providing comprehensive advice on physical activity, active play, sleep and screen time for under-fives.

"New Zealand is the first country to integrate sleep with its advice for parents and caregivers of children under five years, which shows a more holistic approach to children’s health and development."

The new guidelines, published by the Ministry of Health together with Sport New Zealand complement the physical activity guidelines for 5 - 17 year olds which were recently released.

They are one of a range of initiatives being undertaken as part of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan and are part of a wider work plan to ensure that New Zealanders live active, healthy lives.

One of the initiatives under the 22 point plan was the launch of the new raising healthy kids health target, making New Zealand one of the first countries to have a target around childhood obesity.

The latest results show that DHBs referred 86 per cent of obese children identified in B4 School Checks to a professional for clinical assessment and family based nutrition under the raising healthy kids target.

Regular active play, limited sitting and enough good-quality sleep are important for a child’s healthy growth and development.

Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well: Active play guidelines for under-fives (the Guidelines) has been prepared as part of the Eating and Activity Guidelines series.

From birth to five years of age, children experience a significant amount of physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development. Movement, through play, encourages this development. Play is an important way for a child to grow physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually, all of which are vital for their future health and wellbeing.

The Guidelines:

  • include new sleep recommendations, which are integrated with the updated physical activity and sedentary behaviour recommendations for all under-fives
  • are based on current international evidence for under-fives
  • outline the benefits of playing in the natural environment, an important cultural concept in New Zealand
  • suggest practical, low-cost activities that parents, caregivers and whānau or families can do with under-fives to assist the children’s development
  • are consistent with the Ministry’s Clinical Weight Management Guidelines for Children and Young People, Sport New Zealand’s Physical Literacy Approach and Principles of Play, and the Ministry of Education’s Te Whāriki: Early childhood education curriculum
  • are accompanied by an infographic poster, which can be downloaded and printed from the Ministry’s website
  • will be accompanied by easy to understand health education resources for the general public, which will be available later in 2017.

The Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well - Active play guidelines for under-fives are available here -

Ministry of Health May 2017 2012