Is Your Preschooler Too Active?

Preschoolers love being physically active, so it's no wonder that it's often hard to keep them in one place. The solution is to work with their high energy levels. It's important to keep them safe, of course, but give them plenty of opportunities to be active.

Create an informal activity schedule at home. Rainy days can be difficult, so it might be worth a trip to a museum, indoor playground, or shopping mall so kids can move around. If your child attends childcare or preschool, ask how often the kids go outside and what the class does on bad-weather days.

To TV or Not to TV?

TV or computer time might interest preschoolers, but these activities do nothing to burn off all that energy. Set limits on screen time because preschoolers may not know when they've had enough TV and computer use.

Preschoolers shouldn't be inactive for more than an hour at a time unless they're sleeping, so it's easy to understand why a lot of screen time isn't advisable. It can start a pattern of inactivity that could lead to weight problems or inadequate physical fitness.

If you decide to allow your child to watch TV and/or use the computer, the combined screen time should not exceed 2 hours a day. Carefully choose the shows, videos, DVDs, software, and websites your child interacts with. Educational programs and those that encourage kids to exercise or dance are often good choices. Place the computer and television in a part of the house where you can easily monitor them.

Even though many shows, videos, websites, and computer games are marketed to preschoolers, using the computer and watching TV are not as valuable as other pastimes, such as playing, going outside, talking to a parent, or drawing a picture.

The Very Active Preschooler

Preschoolers are such movers and shakers that some parents may worry that their child could be hyperactive or have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In fact, these disorders usually aren't diagnosed in preschoolers because it's normal for them to be active and have shorter attention spans.

As kids get older, more is expected of them, and it is then that it may become clear that a child is less focused, has poorer judgment, or is much more active than others.

To gauge whether overactivity might be a problem for your child, consider these questions:

  • Is your child's activity level unusual for kids of the same age?
  • Is your child highly active in all settings (home, preschool, etc.) or just in some settings, such as in church?
  • Is your child highly active all or most of the time? Or is it mostly on days when he or she can't get outside to run and play?

If your child is very active, try to avoid situations where he or she is forced to sit still for long periods of time. And when sitting is unavoidable, find ways to get your child some activity, such as taking breaks during a long car trip just so your child can run around a bit.

If you're still concerned, talk to your doctor. But the good news is that most preschoolers will become more calm and focused by the time they reach the early school years.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: June 2011

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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