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.
Kids usually have a lot of energy at this age. Make sure your child has plenty of chances to run and play outdoors.
Physical skills vary widely at this age. Find activities that fit your child’s skills. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about choosing a sport that fits your child’s interests and body type. Fine motor skills, like writing, improve a lot at this age. Let your child know that you see how she is improving.
Keep reading together each evening. Donâ€™t let video games take up too much of your childâ€™s attention. Limit TV, computer, and video game time to 1 or 2 hours a day. Carefully select the programs you allow your child to view. Participate with your child and discuss the content with her. Avoid violent programming. Do not 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.
Finding friends is very important. Your child will be very concerned about what other kids think about her. Talk with your child about both the enjoyable and hard aspects of friendships. Teach your child about helping people “save face” when they are angry or embarrassed. Group activities give your child the chance to learn leadership skills.
- Use encouraging words when speaking with your child. Kids have a strong need to feel that they are valued by family and friends. Tell your child when you notice that she is on time or getting her work done on time.
- Tell your child every day that you love her.
- Try to keep rules to a minimum. Make rules that are fair and consistently enforced. At this age, your children’s friends may be more important to her than her family. Your child may resist adult authority at times.
- Teach your child to apologize and help people she may have hurt.
- Help your child develop a strong sense of right and wrong. Allow your child to start making some choices for herself.
- Don’t make demands on your child that are beyond her ability to meet.
- Your child should brush her teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day. Check your child’s teeth after she has brushed.
- Your child should see a dentist every 6 months or as often as the dentist recommends.
Accidents are the number one cause of deaths in children. Kids like to take risks at this age but are not well prepared to judge the dangers. Your child still needs close supervision at this age. You should model safe choices.
- Make sure windows are closed or have screens that cannot be pushed out.
- Donâ€™t allow play in areas where a fall could lead to a serious injury.
- Donâ€™t let your child play on a trampoline without adult 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.
Traffic and Bicycle Safety
- Watch your child when she crosses busy streets. Children at this age will generally look in both directions, but they do not reliably look over their shoulders for oncoming cars.
- Your child and all family members should ride with a bicycle helmet.
- 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 is not yet ready for riding on busy streets. However, start teaching your child about riding a bicycle in traffic. Use bike lanes on quiet streets or 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 her 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
- 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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