Healthy Practices That Support Your Child’s Development

Watching your child grow and develop is one of life’s greatest joys. Being there during their first steps or when they set out for their first day at school is incredibly rewarding and exciting for you both.

 

You can support your child’s development in early life by following healthy practices like eating nutritious meals as a family, exercising and playing together, and acting as a brilliant role model for them to follow.

Screen Time

Managing screen time is a point of contention in almost every household. Your child will almost always want an extra 15 minutes of TV or tablet time, but it’s your job to manage their usage until they can manage it for themselves. Ultimately, your approach to managing screen time will be highly dependent on the age of your child.

 

Children under two can use screens as occasional use appears to be okay for their development. Ideally, you should keep this screen time to video interactions like Facetiming family members. But, as Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Harvard University, explains, “It's as much about what the parent does as what they say.” So, try to model healthy screen-related behavior to ensure that young children have a healthy role model to follow.

 

Older children may want to use screens more often than is healthy. As a parent, it's your job to help them understand why limiting their screen time is important. Screen time shouldn’t take away from their real-life hobbies or interests, but should supplement social bonds and activities.

 

There are no hard and fast rules about how long older children should spend on screens. However, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than an hour a day for children between two and five years old. When your child does use a screen, try to be involved and work on building digital skills with them.

Diet and Nutrition

The food you put on your children’s plates matters. Teaching your kids that healthy food can taste great is an important life lesson that will serve them well into later life. However, almost all busy parents have to resort to fast-food every so often.

 

If you need to whip up a quick and cheap dinner of pizza or fast food, explain to your child that these foods are treats and shouldn’t be a staple of their diet. After dinner time is over, ask your child how the less-healthy food makes them feel. They’ll probably notice that their energy fluctuates more when they’ve just eaten sugar and carb-heavy dinner, and will be less demanding of unhealthy food in the future.

 

Remember that you are a role model for your child, too. Older children and teenagers are sure to notice when snacking on candy chips, so try to get your own diet in check. If you’re struggling to take care of your diet alone, consider talking to a dietitian who can help you get back on track.

Health and Hygiene

Children learn healthy habits early on in life. Basic skills like brushing their teeth, washing frequently, and avoiding addiction are vital to their long-term health and well-being.

 

As a parent, you can make healthy living fun by gamifying the habits you want your child to learn. For example, if you want to improve your child’s vision, consider playing age-appropriate games like playing peekaboo, reading together, or bird spotting.

 

Try to be consistent when it comes to bedtime, too. Children need more sleep than adults for healthy development, but almost all kids think they can stay up later than they really can. Make bedtime non-negotiable during school nights, and stick to just as you do when it comes time to brush their teeth or take a shower.

 

Likewise, you should reinforce the idea that visiting doctors and dentists regularly is part of their overall health regime. Many children fear visits to the doctor or dentist at first, but gentle encouragement can show them that seeking medical advice is a healthy practice that they need to follow. This way, you ensure your child develops good dental habits.

Conclusion

Helping your child develop into a healthy adult can feel like an uphill battle. However, by taking care of the basics like good hygiene, limited screen time, and nutritious dinners, you can start building habits that last. Try to engage your child with as many of the decisions you make about their health and well-being, but stick to expert advice when it comes to decisions about their bedtime or general hygiene.