Eating meals together as a family has many benefits. Mealtime is a great time to let your child tell you about her interests, concerns, and worries. Encourage your child to talk and to listen to others as they share stories and experiences. This helps keep your family feeling close and connected. Children who have meals with their families are less likely to smoke, drink, and abuse drugs, and more likely to do well in school.
You can model healthy eating by what you eat and how much you eat. Balance good nutrition with what your child wants to eat. Major battles over what your child wants to eat are not worth the emotional cost. Bring only healthy foods home from the grocery store. Choose snacks wisely. Children should drink soda pop only rarely. Low-fat or skim milk is a healthier choice.
Good table manners take a long time to develop. Model table manners for your child.
Your child may start to develop interests in sports, arts and crafts, reading, and music. Encourage your childâ€™s interests in these activities. At this age, having fun is more important than winning or losing. Physical skills vary widely in this age group. Find activities that best fit your child’s skills, such as running for kids with lots of energy, swimming for children with lots of strength, or baseball or softball for kids who like being on a team.
Get involved in your child’s school and stay aware of how your child is doing. If your child is struggling, meet with the teacher, counselor, or principal.
Read to your child every day. Make reading a part of the evening ritual. Limit use of the TV, DVDs, or computer to 1 or 2 hours a day of high-quality children’s programming. Participate with your child and discuss the content with him. Do not let your child watch shows with violence or sexual behaviors. For the rest of the time, encourage other activities, like reading, hobbies, and physical activity. Donâ€™t put a TV in your child’s bedroom. Having a TV, computer, or video game in your child’s bedroom increases your child’s risk for obesity, sleep disorders, and attention problems.
- Kids seem to have boundless energy. Find lots of ways to let your child enjoy physical activity.
- Dawdling is a normal response at this age and shows that your child is having a hard time planning and thinking through how to do something. Be patient and set limits on the time your child spends doing certain activities. For example, tell your child he has 5 minutes to get dressed.
Permanent teeth may soon come in or may have already started coming in. You can help care for your childâ€™s teeth by following these tips:
- Your child should brush his teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day. Check your child’s teeth after he has brushed.
- Your child should see a dentist every 6 months or as often as the dentist recommends.
Kids at this age may start taking risks, thinking they will not get hurt in dangerous situations. Watch your child closely, especially when he is near roadways, open water, or a fire, or electricity.
- Make sure windows are closed or have screens that cannot be pushed out.
- Donâ€™t let your child use outdoor trampolines without supervision.
- Make sure that your child is buckled into an approved car safety seat. Children under 13 should always ride in the back seat.
- Never leave children alone in a parked car, even for a few minutes. Children are at risk for heat illness and injury when left alone. Always check to make sure your child is not still in the car when you leave your car.
- Don’t buy motorized riding toys for your child.
Traffic and Bicycle Safety
- Donâ€™t let your child cross the street by herself. Your child may start to look in both directions but don’t depend on her ability to cross a street alone.
- If your child has a bicycle, make sure that it fits your child. Have your child stand over the bicycle. There should be 1 to 2 inches between your child and the top bar of a road bike, and 3 to 4 inches for a mountain bike.
- Your child and all family members should always wear a bicycle helmet, even when riding a tricycle.
- Do not let your child ride a bicycle near busy roads. Use bike paths.
- Watch children and never leave them alone around water, including wading pools, swimming pools, spas or hot tubs, ponds, lakes, streams, or any other open water. If a child is in the water, an adult should also be in the water close enough to reach and grab the child if needed. Children who have completed swimming programs are still not safe from drowning.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for children over 4 years of age.
- Discuss safety outside the home with your child.
- Make sure your child knows his home address and phone number and how to contact you at work.
- Remind your child never to take anything or go anywhere with a stranger.
Fires and Burns
- Make sure your child understands the dangers of playing with matches or lighters.
- Turn your water heater to 120Â°F (49Â°C) or lower.
- Install smoke detectors. Check your smoke detectors as often as recommended by the manufacturer or at least once a month to make sure they work. For all detectors that use batteries, replace batteries at least once a year or when they are low.
- Teach your child emergency phone numbers and to leave the house if there is a fire.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen.
- Children who live in a house where someone smokes have more respiratory infections, like colds, flu, and throat infections. Their symptoms are also more severe and last longer than those of children who live in a smoke-free home.
- If you smoke, set a quit date and stop. Ask your healthcare provider for help in quitting. If you cannot quit, do NOT smoke in the house, car, or near children. It helps keep your child healthy and sets a good example.
Immunizations protect your child against several serious, life-threatening diseases. Your child should get a flu shot every year. Your childâ€™s healthcare provider will let you know if your child is up to date on all recommended vaccinations. Be sure to bring your child’s shot record to all visits with your provider.
A routine checkup every year is recommended.
Written by Robert Brayden, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, University of Colorado.
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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