Children, like adults, need to practice good habits for optimum health. Proper nutrition, safety in and out of the home, and healthy practices such as exercise and wearing sunscreen will decrease your child's chances of health problems in the present and future. Teaching and modeling such behaviors can help your child embrace them for life.
Keeping Your Little One Healthy
It’s difficult to know where to begin when thinking of all the ways to keep your child healthy. Children need to establish the same healthy habits as adults, and sometimes to a greater extent. For example, to prevent skin damage and cancer, you should wear sunscreen if you will be spending time outside. Your young child has very sensitive skin and will need an SPF of at least 15, with diligent reapplication every two hours.
Just as you should get a physical annually, your child needs regular well check-ups. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a recommended well-child care visits schedule. Vaccinations are administered at the checkups, preventing serious diseases like polio, botulism, and tetanus, which can cause irreparable damage. Exercise is also important for your child’s health, especially since statistics from 2003 to 2006 from the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that 32 percent of American children are overweight, with a BMI at or above the 85th percentile, and 16 percent are obese, with a BMI at or above the 95th percentile.
The USDA introduced an updated food guide pyramid for young children in 2005, which includes whole grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat/beans. Children ages 2 to 8 need 2 cups of low-fat milk--or the equivalent of yogurt or cheese--per day for calcium and vitamin D, but juice should be limited due to its high sugar content. Encourage your child to drink water regularly--a healthy habit to develop early in life. Another good habit is eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. Choosing whole grains as much as possible over refined ones will give your child more nutrients and fiber. Make an effort to avoid foods that are processed, high in sugar or high in saturated fat, all of which can increase risks for health problems such as diabetes.
Young children are notorious for getting into everything. Baby-proof your home thoroughly and vigilantly observe your child as she plays to avoid injuries. Exercise great caution around swimming pools and water in general; children can drown in less than 2 inches of water.
When small children start eating solid foods, they should be soft and cut into very small pieces to avoid choking. Avoid foods that could easily become stuck in your child’s airway, such as carrot rounds or whole grapes. Injuries sustained in automobile accidents are a leading cause of death among young children; therefore, car seats are a necessity for babies and toddlers. Have a professional check to ensure that the seat is installed properly. Some states also have laws that require children to be restrained in a seat until they reach a certain height and/or weight.
Important Points to Remember
If you instill good habits in your child at an early age, chances are that they will continue these behaviors for years to come. Include your child in shopping for healthy foods, choosing an activity that will get her heart pumping, and applying sunscreen to protect her from the sun. And stay healthy yourself--don't forget, your children are watching.