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8 tips for raising healthy kids

Published in Pediatrics Author: Denise Lenarz,MD Author: Denise Lenarz, MD

As a mom of three and a pediatrician, I recommend sticking to the basics when it comes to your kids. If these eight simple rules become habits for your children, it will help keep them healthy for their entire life.

  1. Offer lots of fruits and vegetables. Set a good example by eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. If your child refuses to try something, don’t give up. You may have to offer a new food 12-15 times before getting your child to try it.
  2. Teach hand washing. Young kids touch their faces a lot — maybe as much as 50 times an hour. Teach your child to sing the “Happy Birthday Song” while hand washing.
  3. Vaccinate on time. The vaccination schedule is designed to give children immunizations when they are most effective. Children get about 24 shots by age 2.
  4. Brush teeth with fluoride. Beyond creating good habits that last a lifetime, brushing with fluoride prevents tooth decay that causes pain, poor eating and interrupted sleep. Skip the training toothpaste, which doesn’t contain fluoride.
  5. Enforce a regular bedtime. Children need a lot of sleep and having a regular schedule is essential for good health and good behavior. Every child is different but the general guidelines are:
    • Toddlers: 11-14 hours (including naps)
    • Preschoolers and kindergarteners: 10-13 hours
    • Grade school: Nine to 11 hours
  6. Insist on a helmet. When your child rides anything with wheels, make a properly fitting helmet a requirement.
  7. Apply sunscreen. Sunburns at a young age greatly increase your chance of developing skin cancer. For children older than six months, apply sunscreen any time they are outside as well as having them wear sunglasses and protective clothing.
  8. Use safety straps. From vehicles to strollers, from high chairs to bouncy chairs, use safety belts when available. Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries for children.