Giving your child a healthy start is fundamental. As a parent, you play a major role in their early development. You can help them to adopt habits that will enhance the quality of their life for years to come.
Make smart choices while your child is still an infant and reinforce them as they grow. While you’re keeping them strong and fit, you’ll also be nurturing a close and loving relationship.
Try these tips for raising a healthy kid.
Encouraging Your Child’s Physical Wellbeing:
- Breastfeed if possible. Breast milk is easily digested and protects your baby from infections and diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months.
- Eat whole foods. When you introduce solid foods, steer away from processed products. Offer lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Limit sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no sugar for kids under 2, and less than 6 teaspoons a day from 2 to 18. Cutting back on soda and sweets reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions.
- Exercise regularly. Excessive screen time makes kids too sedentary. CDC guidelines call for at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity each day.
- Enforce bedtimes. Bodies and brains need more sleep when they’re still developing. That ranges from a minimum of 14 hours for newborns to 9 hours for school-aged children.
- Wash your hands. Cleanliness protects your kids and your community from germs. Show your children how to wash hands correctly with soap and running water.
- Brush your teeth. Cavities in baby teeth can contribute to dental issues later in life. Introduce your child to a dentist before their first birthday and teach them how to make oral hygiene part of their daily life.
- Apply sunblock. Childhood sunburns increase the risk for skin cancer. Keep babies under 6 months in the shade and buy broad spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher for the rest of the family.
- Use safety gear. Take advantage of products that protect your child from accidents and injuries. Stay up to date with car seats, bicycle helmets, and other safety aids.
- See your pediatrician. Schedule regular wellness visits and learn about symptoms that require urgent care. Ask your pediatrician any questions you have.
Encouraging Your Child’s Mental and Social Wellbeing:
- Listen closely. Pay attention to what your children have to say. Encourage them to talk openly about their feelings. You’ll earn their trust and make it easier for them to turn to you if they’re in trouble.
- Praise generously. Discipline is more about education than punishment. Let your child know when you’re proud of their behavior.
- Manage stress. Kids feel pressured too. Exercise together. Show them how to use arts and crafts to express emotions that they may be unable to put into words.
- Play for fun. Take a break from competitive sports and academics. Join them for unstructured play. Stage a puppet show or run through the sprinklers in your backyard.
- Spend time together. Make family time a top priority. Plan weekend outings and one-on-one activities. Share family meals at least once a day.
- Visit your library. Help your children to develop a love for books. Stock up on reading materials at home and check the calendar at your local library for story times and other events.
Help your child to build a strong foundation for their overall health and wellbeing. Remember that you’re their primary teacher and role model. Your guidance and example increase their chances for a long and happy life.