Tips and Guides

Health & Wellness

The tips in this section offer grade-by-grade suggestions for supporting a healthy lifestyle for your child in both physical development and nutrition needs.

Pre-K

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Try to stick to the outer aisles at the grocery store. As a general rule, the healthiest options for your growing child are fresh, whole foods that haven’t been processed. Dairy, fresh produce, and natural foods are usually found in the outer aisles of the store. The middle aisles are filled with snacks, potato chips, cakes, candy, etc. If your child is shopping with you, avoiding these aisles altogether will keep him from seeing these items – and trying to convince you to add them to the cart.    

      Try challenging your child to eat a rainbow a week. Throughout the week, make sure all colors have been seen on her plate and draw up a chart to document and reward what she eats. For example, blue for blueberries, orange for sweet potatoes, and red for strawberries.

      Have a family pizza night and make your own pies. Let your child participate in putting her toppings on. Start with whole wheat dough, (or whole-wheat English muffins for individual pizzas) low sodium tomato sauce, different kinds of vegetables, and low-fat cheese. It’s a healthy and fun way to get a range of food groups.

      Teach your pre-kindergartener what a healthy meal and snack is. A fruit and vegetable should be eaten at each meal and one at snack time.

      Try presenting your child’s food in different shapes and presentations. Sometimes a new visual arrangement can get your child more interested in a food group. For example, whole carrots, diced carrots or shredded carrots all offer different visuals, but if your child likes to eat one or the other, she’s still eating carrots.

      Make meals and snacks fun. Your younger child will be interested in creative healthy snacks. For example, make “ants on a log” by placing peanut butter, or other nut butters, on celery sticks and let your child add raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruits to be the ants.

      Use foods to reinforce things your child is learning in school, such as colors. Walk through the store and point out different items that are red, green, and yellow. At the end of the trip, have your child pick one of those color items to try something new. This will reinforce skills while increasing her interest in new foods.

      Vegetables

      Offer different vegetables repeatedly. Just because your child didn’t like broccoli two weeks ago, doesn’t mean she won’t like it today. Children’s tastes are changing all the time and the more they are exposed to a certain kind of food, the more they are likely to develop a taste for it. 

      Eat your vegetables too. At this age your child is likely to model her behavior on how you behave. If your child sees you eating vegetables, she may be more likely to learn to enjoy them as well. Really emphasize your love for vegetables by saying things like, “I love these green beans. Don’t you? Can I eat yours?” This will get your child’s attention and make her want to have fun as well – leading her to eating more of her vegetables as well.

      Try raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, pea pods, green beans, and celery with a dip like hummus or low-fat ranch dressing to make the vegetables more appealing to your child. Keep the serving of dip to less than two tablespoons.

      Offer carrots, tomatoes, or asparagus and then let your child choose which to eat. Providing multiple healthy options lets your child make choices while also eating her vegetables.

      Try serving your pre-kindergartener veggie burgers and veggie dogs if she’s a picky eater. Delivering vegetables in a food form she is already used to is another way to promote the development of vegetable eating, while her taste buds are still forming.

      Fruits

      Give your child dried fruits such as raisins or dried apricots as a sweet snack instead of candy. This will satisfy her sweet tooth while also delivering important nutrients. But make sure your child brushes her teeth after eating dried fruits – they can be sticky just like a candy. And keep an eye on the serving size – ¼ cup is one serving of dried fruit, that’s about 1 small box of raisins.

      Keep sliced fruits in easily accessible containers in the refrigerator for a healthy snack or meal addition. Younger children are more likely to eat fruit if is cut up and easy to eat.

      Smoothies are a good way to pack in a lot of fruits in one serving. Add whole bananas, frozen berries, low-fat milk, and blend. You can even add spinach, and the flavor will be masked by the fruits. It’s a treat that tastes like a frozen dessert, but packs a lot of nutrients. Try to keep the serving to less than 6 ounces.

      Grains

      Add crunch (and grains) to your child’s yogurt by adding whole grain cereal. This gets both grains and dairy into her breakfast. Add some sliced fruit and a few nuts and your child has a complete and healthy breakfast.

      Combine whole grain pretzels or crackers with peanut butter or low-fat cheese for a quick and easy healthy snack.

      Try to serve whole grain items with low sugar content for breakfast. Whole grains help your child feel full longer, making whole grains a great option for breakfast.

      Always read the back of a package to check for whole grains. Sometimes the front of the box will say whole grain, but there might not be a lot of whole grains in the pasta, bread, or cereal. Whole grains should be the number one ingredient on the list.

      Incorporate whole grains slowly if your child isn’t used to them. Try mixing brown rice with white rice and gradually adding more brown rice over time until she gets used to the texture and taste. This works for pasta too.

      Protein

      Try to make sure your child eats two servings of fish each week. If you serve fish sticks, look for varieties that are breaded with whole grains.

      Try eggs scrambled, boiled, or served as an omelet with added vegetables. Eggs are a great source of protein and can be prepared in many different ways to keep them interesting.

      Try sun butter or almond butter if peanut allergies are a concern at your child’s school. They can easily replace peanut butter in a sandwich or snack.

      Dairy

      If your child has a diagnosed lactose intolerance, milk substitutes such as calcium-fortified soy milk or almond milk can be good options. Vegetables like collard greens, kale and soybeans also provide calcium, though in smaller amounts. However, calcium from these source it is not absorbed as well as the calcium in dairy foods.

      Use low-fat milk instead of water when preparing hot cereals, oatmeal or soups. This is an easy way to increase your child’s dairy intake without pouring her a glass of milk.

      If your child drinks a lot of milk, try to make sure she doesn’t fill up on milk and neglects to eat other healthy foods.

      Oils & Fats

      If you use margarine, try to buy products in a tub rather than a stick. There is less trans fat (bad fat) in margarine sold in a tub than in stick margarine.

      Check the label of foods you buy to avoid the bad fats in pre-packaged foods. Saturated fats and trans fats fall into the unhealthy fat category. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (liquid fats) are better fats, and are found in vegetable and olive oils, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon.

      Try adding avocado to your child’s sandwich instead of mayonnaise or butter. The creaminess from the avocado makes a good spread while swapping in more healthy fats.

      Sodium & Salt

      Try to feed your child fresh, whole foods, and stay away from processed foods as much as possible. It is the best way to keep sodium consumption down.

      Drain and rinse canned vegetables to reduce the amount of sodium, or buy low-sodium or no salt added vegetables. Frozen vegetables have less sodium than canned vegetables and are a good option when fresh vegetables aren’t available.

      Try not to add salt to your child’s food. Salt is a taste that is learned, so keeping her salt intake down now will help her in the long run.

      Added Sugars

      Limit your child’s screen time to lessen the effect of junk food advertisements. Young children are easily influenced by ads for products such as sugary cereals, soda, and fast food.

      Focus on fruits as a dessert most nights and avoid high-fat ice creams, candies, and pastries, except for on special occasions.

      Always check the labels on your child’s favorite foods. Added sugars can be found in children’s foods like low-fat yogurt and sweetened cereals. You can sweeten yogurt by adding fruit or a small amount of honey. This way you can control just how much goes into the yogurt. Also look for cereals that are not sweetened.

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      Most pre-kindergarteners get enough physical activity from simply doing the things they enjoy most, such as playing, running around, and dancing to music. If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, seek out ways to make physical activity more fun. Children love playing with other kids, so invite a friend for a playdate at home or at the local playground. Or get into the action yourself, by kicking a ball or playing catch with your child.

      Encourage your child to walk distances and not to rely too much on being carried or even using a stroller. Try to set good examples of active behavior for your child, for example by opting to use the stairs and walking as much as possible.

      Try to make sure that your child has plenty of opportunities to play outside. Take advantage of local parks and playgrounds as much as possible. Outdoor play allows children to participate in a variety of healthy physical activities and also offers valuable non-physical benefits. It can foster cognitive and emotional development, by encouraging children to test their limits and explore unfamiliar pieces of equipment. Interacting with other children at parks and playgrounds also helps develop important social skills.

      Model active behavior for your child. Try to organize family activities around being active so that your child understands that being active is fun.

      Emphasize safety to your child. Teach her to be vigilant when crossing the street and to play safely around cars. Show her how important it is to play safely with other children and on playground equipment, for example by avoiding falling on her neck and head.

      Sleep

      Establish a relaxing nightly routine for your child before bed. This could include tidying up her toys, reading bedtime stories, taking a warm bath, and brushing her teeth.

      Children are the most rested when they have a consistent sleep schedule. Try to keep her bed time and wake time the same on weekdays and weekends.

      Your child may try to delay bedtime by extending her nightly routine. Experts say you can incorporate some flexibility into her routine by allowing her to pick the bedtime story or cheery song, but it is important to establish boundaries by limiting the number of choices. To be effective, this routine should last no longer than 30 minutes. Try to leave her bedroom prior to her falling asleep.

      Some children will express resistance to going to bed.  To help avoid this confrontation, use a neutral timekeeper, like a clock or a timer. This will not only establish clear expectations in an impartial and positive way, but also helps to expose your child to numbers and telling time.

      Encourage your child to play with her toys on the floor of her bedroom or in another room, reserving her bed solely for sleeping. By limiting the other activities that take place on her bed, your daughter will begin to associate the bed with sleep time.

      To help lessen the fear of the dark, parents have long relied on nightlights. Experts caution that some of the lights currently available on the market are actually too bright for a restful environment and end up inhibiting sleep. They suggest using a low-illumination nightlight and putting it in a place far away from your child's head, so that it is not directly shining into her eyes when she is lying down.

      Make a family rule to turn off the television and other electronic devices at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Extended screen usage, especially right before bed, is often associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, and nightmares. Experts recommend removing the television from your child’s bedroom to ensure that it is a quiet and dark environment.

      It is important to send consistent messages about the importance of sleep. Try praising your child after a good night's sleep. Avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bed time as a reward. To create a positive message around sleep, you can make a sticker board and reward her with a star for every night she gets to bed on time.

      Hygiene

      At 4 or 5, your child is still young enough that you need to take primary responsibility for her personal hygiene. However, it's important for your child to start developing the good hygiene habits that will help her stay clean and healthy.

      Your child still needs help in the bath or shower, but it’s not too early to teach her how to clean herself effectively and which parts of her body to focus on during bathtime.

      Your child should be able to use the toilet on her own. Make certain that she knows how to wipe herself effectively and emphasize how important it is that she does so. Young girls especially can be prone to infections if they do not wipe well after urinating.

      Make sure that your child understands the importance of washing hands and the connection between cleanliness and staying healthy. Don't rely too much on hand sanitizers and instead make sure your child knows how to wash her hands well with soap and water. Teach her to wash her hands for about 15 seconds, or about as long as it takes to sing the ABC song fairly quickly. Teach your child to wash hands:

      • after using the bathroom
      • before eating
      • before and after handling or preparing food
      • after coming in from outside
      • after blowing her nose or sneezing into her hand
      • before and after visiting sick friends or relative
      • before touching very young babies
      • after touching cats, dogs, and other animals
      • after touching garbage

      Teach your child to sneeze or cough, not into her hand, but into the crook of her arm.

      Teach your child not to pick her nose or bite her nails.

      Make sure your child understands the connection between good hygiene and good health. Explain the importance of not sharing drinking containers and straws, for example, with other kids at school.

      Oral Health

      If you haven’t already started, this is a good time for you to begin taking your child to the dentist for regular checkups, just as she sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child’s oral hygiene with her dentist and ask about measures such as dental sealants, which protect your child’s teeth against cavities and decay.

      Teach your child to brush her teeth at least twice a day: when she wakes up, before she goes to bed and, if possible, after eating.

      Although your child should be able to brush her teeth on her own by now, she will still need help to make sure that her teeth are thoroughly cleaned. Parents should continue to be responsible for overseeing brushing before bedtime to ensure that teeth are cleaned thoroughly.

      If your child's teeth are close enough together for food to get caught between them, then she should be flossing regularly. She will need help holding and manipulating the floss as her manual dexterity develops, but it is important for her to develop the habit.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, affecting 1 in 14, and if left untreated can result in severe complications.

      Although she probably still has most or all of her baby teeth, developing good dental hygiene habits as early as possible will help determine the health of your child's adult teeth when they come in. If she loses baby teeth early to tooth decay, for example, then her adult teeth can grow in prematurely and misaligned because there is not enough room in her mouth.

      Find out if the water where you live has added fluoride and, if it does not, ask your dentist about strategies for protecting your child's teeth. Use a fluoride toothpaste but only in small, pea-sized amounts.

      Limit your child's consumption of sugary or sticky foods, which are the main culprits in tooth decay. Gummy, sticky, or chewy snacks, even if nutritious, can be detrimental for the teeth. Serve a limited amount of food at snacktime and limit grazing, which can allow harmful build-up on the teeth. Teach your child to use her tongue to clean off her teeth immediately after she has eaten foods that stick to her teeth.

      Limit juice consumption to mealtimes and dilute sweet juices with water to cut down on their sugar content.

      Avoid or severely restrict consumption of soft drinks and sodas.

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Kindergarten

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Try to stick to the outer aisles at the grocery store. As a general rule, the healthiest options for your growing child are fresh, whole foods that haven’t been processed. Dairy, fresh produce, and natural foods are usually found in the outer aisles of the store. The middle aisles are filled with snacks, potato chips, cakes, candy, etc. If your child is shopping with you, avoiding these aisles all together will keep him from seeing these items – and trying to convince you to add them to the cart.

      Let your child help plan meals and shop. Let him pick out a new vegetable, help wash it and serve it to the family. He can also help set and clear the table. Getting him involved in the meal process will help him learn about healthy foods while reinforcing healthy eating habits.

      Have your child try new foods. Missouri-based pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert tells her kindergarten patients that being in school means “big kid learning” and trying new things. She asks them to try one new healthy thing to eat each month. She asks them to try at least one bite and then bring back a list of the twelve new foods at their next annual checkup.

      Help your kindergartener learn about foods by planting a few herbs, such as basil and cilantro, on a windowsill. Have him water the herbs and watch them grow. When they’re big enough, show him how you’ll use them to cook and let him taste how they change the flavors. You could also try this with tomatoes or other foods, depending on your space. This not only piques your child’s interest in the food, but also teaches him some science.

      Ask family members or friends your child admires to model healthy eating behavior for your child. Younger children often idolize older people such as a parent, aunt or uncle, older cousin or friend. One way to motivate your child to eat better is to say if he wants to grow big and strong like his role model, he needs to eat healthy foods.

      Teach your kindergartener what a healthy meal and snack is made of. A fruit and vegetable should be eaten at each meal and one at snack time.

      Make meals and snacks fun. Your younger child will be interested in creative healthy snacks. For example, make “ants on a log” by placing peanut butter, or other nut butters, on celery sticks and let your child add raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruits to represent the ants.

      Focus on eating as a family without technology distractions. This means no texting, no TV, no technology. Meals are a great time to connect as a family and keeping distractions at bay allows your child to learn to listen to his body and know when he is full.

      Try sending bottles of water, low-fat cheese sticks, apple slices, or raisins instead of high-sugar and high-sodium snacks to school parties. Silly straws, temporary tattoos, and stickers are a good way to add to the festivities without adding calories.

      Try not to force your child into eating. Sometimes kindergarteners show less interest in eating dinner. Pediatrician Natasha Burgert reminds the parents in her practice that the biggest meals may be breakfast and lunch, leading to fewer calories needed at night. Dr. Burgert says that as long as your child is growing normally, forcing food is never a good idea. Let them learn to eat when their body is telling them to be hungry.

      Vegetables

      Try adding a touch of salt, a small amount of ketchup, or low-fat salad dressing to your child’s vegetables. At this young age, your child’s taste buds are extra sensitive to bitter foods, making leafy greens like spinach and kale a hard sell. Adding these flavors can help cut the bitterness. Your child will get used to the bitter taste over time as long as you continue to offer that particular vegetable.

      Offer different vegetables repeatedly. Just because your child didn’t like beets two weeks ago, doesn’t mean he won’t like them today. Children’s tastes are changing all the time and the more they are exposed to a certain kind of food, the more they are likely to develop a taste for it.

      Remember to eat your vegetables too. At this age your child is likely to model, or copy, your behavior. Really emphasize your love for vegetables by saying things like, “I love these green beans. Don’t you? Can I eat yours?” This will get your child’s attention and make him want to have fun as well – leading him to eat more of his vegetables as well.

      Try raw vegetables like carrot sticks, pea pods, green beans, and celery with a dip like hummus or low-fat ranch dressing to make the vegetables more appealing to your child.

      Try serving your kindergartener veggie burgers and veggie dogs if he’s a picky eater. Delivering vegetables in a food form he may be used to is another way to promote the development of vegetable eating, while his taste buds are still forming.

      Fruits

      Give your child dried fruits like raisins or dried apricots as a sweet snack instead of candy. This will satisfy his sweet tooth while also delivering important nutrients. But make sure your child brushes his teeth after eating dried fruits – they can be sticky just like a candy. And keep an eye on the serving size – ¼ cup is one serving of dried fruit, that’s about 1 small box of raisins.

      Keep sliced fruits in easily accessible containers in the refrigerator for a healthy snack or meal addition. Younger children are more likely to eat fruit if is cut up and easy to eat.

      Smoothies are a good way to pack in a lot of fruits in one serving. Add whole bananas, frozen berries, low-fat milk, and blend. You can even add spinach. The fruits will mask its taste. It’s a treat that tastes like a frozen dessert, but packs a lot of nutrients. Be careful not to serve too much - try to stay under 6 ounces.

      Grains

      Try whole grain tortillas with melted low-fat cheese for a snack that packs in both grains and dairy.

      Add crunch (and grains) to your child’s yogurt by adding whole grain cereal. This gets both grains and dairy into his breakfast. Add some sliced fruit and a few almonds or walnuts and your child has a complete and healthy breakfast.

      Whole grains can make great snacks. Combining whole grain pretzels or crackers with peanut butter or low-fat cheese is a quick and easy healthy snack.

      Whole grains help your child feel full longer, making whole grains a great option for breakfast. Try to serve whole grain items with low sugar content for breakfast to keep him full and satisfied.

      Always read the back of a package to check for whole grains. Sometimes the front of the box will say whole grain, but there might not be a lot of whole grains in the pasta, bread, or cereal. Whole grains should be the number one ingredient on the list.

      Try incorporating whole grains slowly if your child isn’t used to them. Try mixing brown rice with white rice and gradually adding more brown rice over time until he gets used to the texture and taste. This works for pasta too.

      Protein

      Try to make sure your child eats two servings of fish each week. If you serve fish sticks, look for varieties that are breaded with whole grains and low-sodium. An even healthier option is to make them at home with baked salmon, tilapia, or flounder.

      Try to limit the amount of tuna you serve your child  to no more than 1 can of chunk light tuna every 7 to 9 days, due to the mercury levels in tuna. Chunk light tuna has far less mercury than white albacore tuna. You could also switch to canned salmon, and your child may not know the difference.

      Color some hard-boiled eggs with your child. Dying eggs with your child is not only a fun activity for you to share; it can make eating eggs more appealing. Let your child pick which color egg he would like for breakfast.

      Dairy

      If your child has a diagnosed lactose intolerance, milk substitutes such as calcium-fortified soy milk or almond milk are good options. Vegetables like collard greens, kale, and soybeans also provide calcium, though in smaller amounts, but calcium in these sources is not as well absorbed as the calcium in dairy foods.

      Use low-fat milk when preparing hot cereal, oatmeal, or soup. This is an easy way to increase your child’s dairy intake without pouring him a glass of milk.

      If your child drinks a lot of milk, try to make sure he doesn’t fill up on milk and neglect to eat other healthy foods.

      Oils & Fats

      Stay away from trans fat. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list this means there is trans fat in the product, even if it says “0 trans fat” on the front of the label.

      Try to buy margarine in a tub rather than a stick. There is less trans fat in margarine sold in a tub than in stick margarine.

      Check the label to avoid the bad fats in pre-packaged foods. Saturated fats and trans fats fall into the unhealthy fat category. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (liquid fats) are better fats, and found in vegetable and olive oils, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon.

      Sodium & Salt

      Feed your kindergartener fresh, whole foods, and stay away from processed foods as much as possible. This is the best way to keep his sodium intake down. Studies from the Centers for Disease Control show that most of children’s sodium comes from processed foods and foods eaten away from home, like chicken fingers and pizza.

      Try to always check the labels of the food you’re buying. Since every brand and cook is different, looking for lower sodium options will really help cut back your child’s intake.

      Drain and rinse canned vegetables to reduce the amount of sodium when not buying the low-sodium or no salt added version. Frozen vegetables have less sodium than canned vegetables and are a good option when fresh vegetables aren’t available.

      Added Sugars

      Limit your child’s screen time to lessen the effect of food ads. Young children are easily influenced by advertisements for junk foods like sugary cereals, soda, and fast food.

      Have occasional dessert at home two or three nights a week regardless of how your child has eaten. Some nights are dessert nights, others are not. The random nature of dessert will keep your child from fighting or overeating just to get dessert. It also helps to avoid rewarding a clean plate with dessert, which can lead to unhealthy calories.

      Teach your child moderation. If you completely forbid some foods, it may make him more likely to want them.

      Focus on fruits as a dessert most nights and avoid ice creams, candies and pastries except for in special occasions. And remember, children do not need dessert every night.

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, so it's especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Try to organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as after-dinner walks or raking leaves.

      Explore age-appropriate lessons and sports for your kindergartener. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer lessons.

      Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.

      Make sure that your child has plenty of opportunities to play outside. Take advantage of local parks and playgrounds as much as possible. Outdoor play allows children to participate in a variety of healthy physical activities and also offers valuable non-physical benefits. It can foster cognitive and emotional development, by encouraging children to test their limits and explore unfamiliar pieces of equipment. Interacting with other children at parks and playgrounds also helps develop important social skills.

      Emphasize safety to your child. Teach him to be vigilant when crossing the street and to play safely around cars. Show him how important it is to play safely with other children and on playground equipment, for example by avoiding falling on his neck and head.

      Physical Activity

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, so it's especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Try to organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as after-dinner walks or raking leaves.

      Explore age-appropriate lessons and sports for your kindergartener. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer lessons.

      Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.

      Make sure that your child has plenty of opportunities to play outside. Take advantage of local parks and playgrounds as much as possible. Outdoor play allows children to participate in a variety of healthy physical activities and also offers valuable non-physical benefits. It can foster cognitive and emotional development, by encouraging children to test their limits and explore unfamiliar pieces of equipment. Interacting with other children at parks and playgrounds also helps develop important social skills.

      Emphasize safety to your child. Teach him to be vigilant when crossing the street and to play safely around cars. Show him how important it is to play safely with other children and on playground equipment, for example by avoiding falling on his neck and head.

      Sleep

      Children are the most rested when they have a steady sleep schedule. Try to keep his bed time and wake time consistent throughout the week and the weekend.

      Establish a relaxing nightly routine for your child before bed. This could include tidying up his toys, reading bedtime stories, taking a warm bath, and brushing his teeth.

      Your child may try to delay bedtime by extending his nightly routine. Experts say you can incorporate some flexibility into his routine by allowing him to pick the bedtime story or a cheery song, but it is important to establish boundaries by limiting the number of choices. To be effective, this routine should last no longer than 30 minutes. Try to leave his bedroom prior to him falling asleep.

      Some children will express resistance to going to bed. To help alleviate this confrontation, use a neutral timekeeper, like a clock or a timer. This will not only establish clear expectations in an impartial and positive way, but also helps to expose your child to numbers and telling time.

      Encourage your child to play with his toys on the floor of his bedroom or in another room, reserving her bed solely for sleeping. By limiting the other activities that take place on his bed, your son will begin to associate the bed with sleep time.

      Make a family rule to turn off the television and other electronic devices at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Extended screen usage, especially right before bed, is often associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, and nightmares. Experts recommend removing the television from your child’s bedroom to ensure that it is a quiet and dark environment.

      To help lessen the fear of the dark, parents have long relied on nightlights. Experts caution that some of the lights currently available on the market are actually too bright for a restful environment and end up inhibiting sleep. They suggest using a low-illumination nightlight and putting it in a place far away from your child’s head, so that it is not directly shining into his eyes when he is lying down.

      It is important to send consistent messages about the importance of sleep. Try praising your child after a good night's sleep. Avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bed time as a reward. To create a positive message around sleep, you can make a sticker board and reward him with a star for every night he gets to bed on time.

      Sleep

      Children are the most rested when they have a steady sleep schedule. Try to keep his bed time and wake time consistent throughout the week and the weekend.

      Establish a relaxing nightly routine for your child before bed. This could include tidying up his toys, reading bedtime stories, taking a warm bath, and brushing his teeth.

      Your child may try to delay bedtime by extending his nightly routine. Experts say you can incorporate some flexibility into his routine by allowing him to pick the bedtime story or a cheery song, but it is important to establish boundaries by limiting the number of choices. To be effective, this routine should last no longer than 30 minutes. Try to leave his bedroom prior to him falling asleep.

      Some children will express resistance to going to bed. To help alleviate this confrontation, use a neutral timekeeper, like a clock or a timer. This will not only establish clear expectations in an impartial and positive way, but also helps to expose your child to numbers and telling time.

      Encourage your child to play with his toys on the floor of his bedroom or in another room, reserving her bed solely for sleeping. By limiting the other activities that take place on his bed, your son will begin to associate the bed with sleep time.

      Make a family rule to turn off the television and other electronic devices at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Extended screen usage, especially right before bed, is often associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, and nightmares. Experts recommend removing the television from your child’s bedroom to ensure that it is a quiet and dark environment.

      To help lessen the fear of the dark, parents have long relied on nightlights. Experts caution that some of the lights currently available on the market are actually too bright for a restful environment and end up inhibiting sleep. They suggest using a low-illumination nightlight and putting it in a place far away from your child’s head, so that it is not directly shining into his eyes when he is lying down.

      It is important to send consistent messages about the importance of sleep. Try praising your child after a good night's sleep. Avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bed time as a reward. To create a positive message around sleep, you can make a sticker board and reward him with a star for every night he gets to bed on time.

      Hygiene

      By the time they reach kindergarten most children are taking a more active role in their personal hygiene. However, parents should remain involved and supervise bathtime to ensure that everything is being cleaned effectively.

      The precise age at which children are ready to bathe or shower on their own varies from child to child. Often, children will indicate that they are ready for more privacy and would prefer to start washing themselves, but the transition is usually gradual and parents will still need to weigh in with advice or to check that everything has been properly cleansed. Some children, especially girls with long hair, might still require help with shampooing or rinsing out conditioner even after they have mastered washing the rest of their body. As children start bathing on their own, be patient as they learn the ropes and allocate extra time if necessary for bath time.

      Most children do not need to wash their hair every day. How often your child's hair needs to be washed will depend on a number of factors, including hair length, your child’s activity level, and whether the hair is curly or straight.

      Make sure that your child understands the importance of washing hands and the connection between cleanliness and staying healthy. Don't rely too much on hand sanitizers and instead make sure your child knows how to wash his hands effectively with soap and water. Teach your child to wash hands:

      • after using the bathroom
      • before eating
      • before and after handling or preparing food
      • after coming in from outside
      • after blowing her nose or sneezing
      • before and after visiting sick friends or relatives
      • after touching cats, dogs, and other animals
      • after touching garbage

      Teach your child to sneeze or cough, not into his hand, but into the crook of his arm.

      Teach your child not to pick his nose or bite his nails.

      Make sure your child understands the connection between good hygiene and good health. Explain the importance of not sharing drinking containers and straws, for example, with other kids at school.

      Hygiene

      By the time they reach kindergarten most children are taking a more active role in their personal hygiene. However, parents should remain involved and supervise bathtime to ensure that everything is being cleaned effectively.

      The precise age at which children are ready to bathe or shower on their own varies from child to child. Often, children will indicate that they are ready for more privacy and would prefer to start washing themselves, but the transition is usually gradual and parents will still need to weigh in with advice or to check that everything has been properly cleansed. Some children, especially girls with long hair, might still require help with shampooing or rinsing out conditioner even after they have mastered washing the rest of their body. As children start bathing on their own, be patient as they learn the ropes and allocate extra time if necessary for bath time.

      Most children do not need to wash their hair every day. How often your child's hair needs to be washed will depend on a number of factors, including hair length, your child’s activity level, and whether the hair is curly or straight.

      Make sure that your child understands the importance of washing hands and the connection between cleanliness and staying healthy. Don't rely too much on hand sanitizers and instead make sure your child knows how to wash his hands effectively with soap and water. Teach your child to wash hands:

      • after using the bathroom
      • before eating
      • before and after handling or preparing food
      • after coming in from outside
      • after blowing her nose or sneezing
      • before and after visiting sick friends or relatives
      • after touching cats, dogs, and other animals
      • after touching garbage

      Teach your child to sneeze or cough, not into his hand, but into the crook of his arm.

      Teach your child not to pick his nose or bite his nails.

      Make sure your child understands the connection between good hygiene and good health. Explain the importance of not sharing drinking containers and straws, for example, with other kids at school.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups, just as he sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child's oral hygiene with his dentist and ask about measures such as dental sealants, which protect your child's teeth against cavities and decay.

      Developing good oral hygiene habits is important, even if your child still has only baby teeth. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and causing problems with eating, speaking, and learning.

      By kindergarten children should be brushing their teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Although your child should be able to brush his teeth on his own by now, he will still need help to make sure that his teeth are thoroughly cleaned. Parents should continue to be responsible for overseeing brushing and flossing before bedtime.

      Children should start flossing on a daily basis once their teeth fit closely together. They will usually need some help with this until then are 7 years old or even older.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children ages 5-14, affecting 1 in 14, and left untreated can result in severe complications.

      Find out if the water where you live has added fluoride and, if it is not, ask your dentist about strategies for protecting your child's teeth. Use a fluoride toothpaste but only in small, pea-sized amounts.

      Limit your child's consumption of sugary or sticky foods, which are the main culprits in tooth decay. Teach your child to use his tongue to clean off his teeth immediately after he has eaten foods that stick to his teeth.

      Limit juice consumption to mealtimes and dilute sweet juices with water to cut down on their sugar content.

      Avoid or severely restrict consumption of soft drinks and sodas.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups, just as he sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child's oral hygiene with his dentist and ask about measures such as dental sealants, which protect your child's teeth against cavities and decay.

      Developing good oral hygiene habits is important, even if your child still has only baby teeth. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and causing problems with eating, speaking, and learning.

      By kindergarten children should be brushing their teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Although your child should be able to brush his teeth on his own by now, he will still need help to make sure that his teeth are thoroughly cleaned. Parents should continue to be responsible for overseeing brushing and flossing before bedtime.

      Children should start flossing on a daily basis once their teeth fit closely together. They will usually need some help with this until then are 7 years old or even older.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children ages 5-14, affecting 1 in 14, and left untreated can result in severe complications.

      Find out if the water where you live has added fluoride and, if it is not, ask your dentist about strategies for protecting your child's teeth. Use a fluoride toothpaste but only in small, pea-sized amounts.

      Limit your child's consumption of sugary or sticky foods, which are the main culprits in tooth decay. Teach your child to use his tongue to clean off his teeth immediately after he has eaten foods that stick to his teeth.

      Limit juice consumption to mealtimes and dilute sweet juices with water to cut down on their sugar content.

      Avoid or severely restrict consumption of soft drinks and sodas.

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1st Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Be prepared for comments about what other kids are eating at school. For many children, 1st grade is when they first eat their lunch and breakfast away from home. Your child will get to see what other parents feed their children in the cafeteria and at snack time. Teach your child you’ve chosen to feed her healthier options, and what is OK for her friend to eat is not necessarily OK for her to eat.

      Try to stick to the outer aisles at the grocery store. As a general rule, the healthiest options for your growing child are fresh, whole foods that haven’t been processed. Dairy, fresh produce, and natural foods are usually found in the outer aisles of the store. The middle aisles are filled with snacks, potato chips, cakes, candy, etc. If your child is shopping with you, avoiding these aisles altogether will keep your child from seeing these items – and trying to convince you to add them to the cart.

      Have your family members and friends serve as role models for healthy eating. Younger children often idolize older people such as a parent, aunt or uncle, older cousin, or friend. One way to motivate your child to eat better is to say that if she wants to grow big and strong like her role model, she needs to eat healthy foods.

      Try to use words such as strong or weak, fast or slow, or healthy or unhealthy, instead of words like fat, obese, or chunky when talking about nutrition with your child. Try explaining to your child that “eating your vegetables will make you grow up strong,” and “eating too much candy will slow you down and make your body weak.” A sense of body image starts to develop around age 6, and focusing on what the food does to their body will help promote a healthy ideal instead of putting an overemphasis on weight.

      Teach your 1st grader what a healthy meal and snack is. A fruit and vegetable should be eaten at each meal and one at snack time.

      Focus on eating as a family without technology distractions. This means no texting, no TV, no technology. Meals are a great time to connect as a family, and keeping distractions at bay allows your child to learn to listen to her body and know when she is full.

      1st graders love to help – take advantage of that by asking your child to get involved with picking out vegetables and fruits at the grocery store, helping in meal preparation, and putting the foods on plates. Getting her involved in all steps of the process is great for developing her interest in healthy foods.

      Try serving your 1st grader veggie burgers and veggie dogs to increase vegetable and protein intake for a picky eater. Delivering vegetables in a food form she may already be used to is another way to promote the development of vegetable eating, while her taste buds are still forming.

      Vegetables

      Try adding shredded carrots or zucchini to meatloaf, casseroles or quick breads and muffins. Your child might not even notice the added vegetables.

      Ask your child to help tear lettuce for a salad or wash fresh vegetables. Getting your child involved in this way can get them interested in eating the vegetables they’ve helped prepare.

      At this young age, your child’s taste buds are extra-sensitive to bitter foods, making leafy greens like spinach and kale a hard sell. If you add a touch of salt to bitter greens, it gives them a less bitter taste. Also try adding ketchup, which may sound unappealing to an adult, but if it gets your child to eat green beans it may be worth it. Your child will get used to the bitter taste over time as long as you continue to offer that particular vegetable.

      Try adding spinach to a homemade smoothie. The sweetness of the berries and banana will mask the spinach, ensuring your child gets those leafy greens in a sweeter way.

      Offer different vegetables repeatedly. Just because your child didn’t like beets two weeks ago, doesn’t mean she won’t like them today. Children’s tastes are changing all the time and the more they are exposed to a certain kind of food, the more they are likely to develop a taste for it.

      Eat your vegetables, too. At this age your child is likely to copy your behavior. Really emphasize your love for vegetables by saying things like, “I love these green beans. Don’t you? Can I eat yours?” This will get your child’s attention and make her want to have fun as well – leading her to eating more of her vegetables. 

      Try raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, pea pods, green beans, and celery with a dip like hummus or ranch dressing to make the vegetables more appealing to your child. Limit dips to no more than 2 tablespoons and try a light or fat-free version.

      Fruits

      Give your child dried fruits like raisins or dried apricots as a sweet snack instead of candy. This will satisfy her sweet tooth while also delivering important nutrients. But make sure your child brushes her teeth after eating dried fruits – they can be sticky, just like a candy. And keep an eye on the serving size – ¼ cup is one serving of dried fruit, that’s about 1 small box of raisins.

      Keep sliced fruits in easily accessible containers in the refrigerator for a healthy snack or meal addition. Younger children are more likely to eat fruit if is cut up and easy to eat.

      Smoothies are a good way to pack in a lot of fruits in one serving. Add whole bananas, frozen berries, milk, and blend. It’s a treat that tastes like a frozen dessert, but packs a lot of nutrients. Be mindful of portions and serve no more than 6 ounces.

      Grains

      Try whole grain tortillas with melted low-fat cheese for a snack that packs in both grains and dairy.

      Add crunch (and grains) to your child’s yogurt by adding whole grain cereal. This gets both grains and dairy into their breakfast. Add some sliced fruit and a few nuts and your child has a complete and healthy breakfast.

      Oatmeal is another great option for whole grains at breakfast. Add fruit like bananas and berries, top with almonds and walnuts, and your child will have a filling start to her day with most of the food groups covered.

      Try to always read the back of a package to check for whole grains. Sometimes the front of the box will say whole grain, but there might not be a lot of whole grains in the pasta, bread, or cereal. Whole grains should be the number one ingredient on the list.

      Try incorporating whole grains slowly if your child isn’t used to them. Try mixing brown rice with white rice and gradually adding more brown rice over time until she gets used to the texture and taste. This works for pasta too.

      Protein

      Try to make sure your child eats two servings of fish each week. If you serve fish sticks, look for varieties that are breaded with whole grains and low-sodium. An even healthier option is to make them at home with baked salmon, tilapia, or flounder.

      Try to limit the amount of tuna you serve your child per week to no more than 1 can of chunk light tuna every 7 to 9 days, due to the mercury levels in tuna. Chunk light tuna has far less mercury than white albacore tuna. You could also switch to canned salmon, and your child may not know the difference.

      Try making eggs in different ways to keep them interesting. They can be scrambled, boiled, or served as an omelet with added vegetables. Eggs are a great source of protein.

      Dairy

      If your child has a diagnosed lactose intolerance, milk substitutes such as calcium-fortified soy milk or almond milk are good options. Vegetables like collard greens, kale, and soybeans also provide calcium, though in smaller amounts. However, calcium from these sources is not absorbed as well as the calcium in dairy foods.

      Use low-fat milk when preparing hot cereal, oatmeal, or soup. This is an easy way to increase your child’s dairy intake without pouring her a glass of milk.

      If your child drinks a lot of milk, try to make sure he doesn’t fill up on milk and neglect to eat other healthy foods.

      Oils & Fats

      Try adding small amounts of avocado to a smoothie to increase creaminess and healthy fats.

      Stay away from harmful trans fats. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list this means there is trans fat in the product, even if it says 0 trans fat on the front of the label.

      Try to buy margarine in a tub rather than a stick. There is less trans fat in margarine sold in a tub than in stick margarine.

      Try to check the label to avoid the bad fats in pre-packaged foods. Saturated fats and trans fats fall into the unhealthy fat category. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (liquid fats) are better fats, and are found in vegetable and olive oils, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon.

      Sodium & Salt

      Feed your 1st grader fresh, whole foods, and stay away from processed foods as much as possible. This is the best way to keep her sodium intake down.

      Try to always check the labels of the food you’re buying. Since every brand and cook are different, looking for lower sodium options will really help cut back your child’s intake.

      Drain and rinse canned vegetables to reduce the amount of sodium when not buying low-sodium or no salt added versions. Frozen vegetables have less sodium than canned vegetables and are a good option when fresh vegetables aren’t available.

      Don’t leave a salt shaker on the table. If you’d like to have added flavor available, try making your own herb mix to keep on the table. Garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano or thyme are good options to mix together to add flavor without adding sodium.

      Most sodium in a child’s diet does not come from the salt shaker but from foods purchased away from home. For example, chicken fingers and pasta dishes are often high in sodium.

      Try making your own pizza at home. Pizza parlor pizza is the top source of sodium in a child’s diet.

      Added Sugars

      Try to emphasize with your child that sweet treats are an occasional treat, and not an everyday occurrence. At this age your child may begin to be influenced by her peers who may consume unhealthy snacks like candy and soda.

      Limit your child’s screen time to lessen the effect of food ads. Young children are easily influenced by advertisements for junk foods like sugary cereals, soda, and fast food.

      Teach your child moderation. If you completely forbid some foods, it may make her more likely to want them.

      Focus on fruits as a dessert most nights and avoid ice creams, candies, and pastries except for on special occasions

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities she is doing in gym class or at recess. This will give you a better understanding of her overall level of physical activity.

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer, so it’s especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Even outdoor activities such as raking leaves count.

      Explore age-appropriate lessons and sports for your 1st grader. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer lessons.

      If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity more enjoyable for her. For example, inviting friends over to play outside might motivate her. Or having you offer to kick a ball or play catch with her might spark her interest.

      Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.

      Emphasize safety to your child. Teach her to be vigilant when crossing the street and to play safely around cars. Show her how important it is to play safely with other children and on playground equipment, for example by avoiding falling on her neck and head.

      Sleep

      Consistency is the key to your child’s sleep success. Ensure that she gets to bed and wakes up around the same time on weekdays and weekends. Your child may try to sleep in on the weekends, which is likely a sign that she is not getting enough sleep. Experts recommend that her bedtime on the weekends be within an hour of her weekday bedtime and that she should sleep for about the same amount of total time.

      Establish a relaxing nightly routine for your child before bed. This could include tidying up her toys, reading bedtime stories, taking a warm bath, and brushing her teeth.

      Your child may try to extend her nightly routine in order to delay bedtime. Experts say you can incorporate some flexibility into her routine by allowing her to pick a bedtime story or a cheery song, but it is important to establish boundaries by limiting the number of choices. To be effective, this routine should last no longer than 30 minutes. Try to leave her bedroom prior to her falling asleep.

      Encourage your child to play with her toys on the floor of her bedroom or in another room, reserving her bed solely for sleeping. By limiting the other activities that take place on her bed, your daughter will begin to associate the bed with sleep time.

      Make a family rule to turn off the television and other electronic devices at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Extended screen usage, especially right before bed, is often associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, and nightmares.  Experts recommend removing the television from your child’s bedroom to ensure that it is a quiet and dark environment.

      It is important to send consistent messages about the importance of sleep. Try praising your child after a good night’s sleep. Avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bed time as a reward. To create a positive message around sleep, you can make a sticker board and reward her with a star for every night she gets to bed on time.

      Caffeine is a stimulant that can prevent your child from falling asleep.  Five hours before her bedtime, avoid feeding your child soda, tea, or other caffeinated beverages.  Caffeine has also been found to stimulate urination and can contribute to bedwetting.

      Hygiene

      By the time they reach 1st grade most children are taking a much more active role in their personal hygiene. However, parents should remain involved and supervise bathtime to ensure that everything is being cleaned effectively.

      The precise age at which children are ready to bathe or shower on their own varies from child to child. Often, children will indicate that they are ready for more privacy and would prefer to start washing themselves, but the transition is usually gradual and parents will still need to weigh in with advice or to check that everything has been properly cleansed. Some children, especially girls with long hair, might still require help with shampooing or rinsing out conditioner even after they have mastered washing the rest of their body. As children start bathing on their own, be patient as they learn the ropes and allocate extra time if necessary for bathtime.

      Most children do not need to wash their hair every day. How often your child’s hair needs to be washed will depend on a number of factors, including hair length, your child’s activity level, and whether the hair is curly or straight. 

      Make sure that your child understands the importance of washing hands and the connection between cleanliness and staying healthy. Don’t rely too much on hand sanitizers and instead make sure your child knows how to wash her hands effectively with soap and water. Teach your child to wash hands:

      • after using the bathroom
      • before eating
      • before and after handling or preparing food
      • after coming in from outside
      • after blowing her nose or sneezing
      • before and after visiting sick friends or relatives
      • after touching cats, dogs, and other animals
      • after touching garbage

      Teach your child to sneeze or cough, not into her hand, but into the crook of her arm

      Teach your child not to pick her nose or bite her nails.

      Teach your child not to scratch her private parts in public.

      Make sure your child understands the connection between good hygiene and good health. Explain the importance of not sharing drinking containers and straws, for example, with other kids at school.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups, just as she sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child’s oral hygiene with her dentist and ask about measures such as dental sealants, which protect your child’s teeth against cavities and decay.

      Maintaining good oral hygiene habits is important at this age, even if your child still has only baby teeth. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and causing problems with eating, speaking, and learning. Good dental hygiene is more essential than ever now that your child’s permanent teeth will soon be coming in.

      Your child should be brushing her teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Although your child should be brushing her teeth on her own by now, she will still need help to make sure that her teeth are thoroughly cleaned. Parents should continue to be responsible for overseeing brushing and flossing before bedtime.

      Children should start flossing on a daily basis once their teeth fit closely together. They will usually need some help with this until then are 7 years old or even older.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, affecting 1 in 14, and if left untreated can result in severe complications.

      Find out if the water where you live has added fluoride and, if it is not, ask your dentist about strategies for protecting your child’s teeth. Use a fluoride toothpaste but only in small, pea-sized amounts.

      Limit your child’s consumption of sugary or sticky foods, which are the main culprits in tooth decay.  Teach your child to use her tongue to clean off her teeth immediately after she has eaten foods that stick to her teeth.

      Limit juice consumption to mealtimes and dilute sweet juices with water to cut down on their sugar content.

      Avoid or severely restrict consumption of soft drinks and sodas.

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2nd Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Make mealtime free of distractions to allow your child to focus on eating. This means no TV, smartphones, or other gadgets during meals. This is a great time to connect as a family and keeping distractions at bay trains your child to listen to his body, focus on what he’s eating, when he’s full, and when he’d like more. 

      Try sticking to the outer aisles at the grocery store. As a general rule, the healthiest options for your growing child are fresh, whole foods that haven’t been processed. Dairy, fresh produce, and natural foods are usually found in the outer aisles of the store. The middle aisles are filled with snacks, potato chips, cakes, candy, etc. If your child is shopping with you, avoiding these aisles all together will keep your child from seeing these items – and trying to convince you to add them to the cart.

      Have a family pizza night and make your own pies. Your 2nd grader probably loves pizza, which doesn’t always have to be junk food. Let your child participate in putting his toppings on. Start with whole wheat dough, low sodium tomato sauce, different kinds of vegetables, and low-fat cheese. It’s a healthy and fun way to get a range of food groups.

      Make sure healthier options are easier to reach and at eye-level, and treats are out of sight. 2nd graders have more independence around the kitchen at this age, meaning they will grab snacks from the fridge or cupboard on their own. If the only foods your child finds are healthy, making a healthy choice is easier.

      Let your child decide what goes into a salad. This increases his participation in healthy choices and shows him that his opinion on what he eats matters. 

      Be creative with how you present food to your 2nd grader. He is likely to be more adventurous at this age than he was before and presenting healthy options in new ways can lead him to try new foods. Tired with a side salad at dinner? Try making a taco salad as a main dish and let your child decide what goes into his. Grilled chicken breast strips, black beans, corn, peppers, avocado, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, brown rice, and low-fat cheese are all good options to include. Instead of a higher-fat salad dressing, try using salsa for a flavorful and healthier option.

      Have your child run the buttons on the blender as you make smoothies. At this age, he can help out more in the kitchen. Getting him involved in the process will get him more invested and interested in the food he’ll be eating.

      Take your child grocery shopping with you and get him involved in bagging and weighing produce. Some stores even have scanners that kids can use.

      Vegetables

      Offer a side of carrots, sweet potato, or green beans and let your child choose which one he would like to have for dinner. This will support your child’s independence and also encourage him to choose vegetables on his own.

      Try adding more vegetables to spaghetti to increase vegetable consumption. Adding peppers, mushrooms, or chopped broccoli to the sauce is one option. Another is using a vegetable peeler to turn zucchini into “noodles” by thinly slicing the zucchini and either adding to spaghetti noodles or using just the zucchini as the pasta.

      Try having a “veggie night” once a week. Serve veggie dogs or veggie burgers, hummus with cut vegetables like carrots and cucumbers, and baked sweet potato fries. Committing to one night a week will challenge both you and your child to try vegetables in different ways and see them as more than just a side dish.

      Fruits

      Keep cut-up fruit in single serve bags in the refrigerator at eye-level and encourage your child to eat this as a snack. When fruit is readily available and easy to eat it makes your child more likely to choose it.

      If it’s an option, take a family trip to a local apple orchard. Let your child pick apples and discuss the different kinds of apples available. When you’re home, you can taste-test the apples and see which ones you all like best. You’ll not only get to promote healthy eating, the outing makes good family time and also gets you all moving.

      Focus on fruit as dessert. The natural sweetness in fruits provides a great way to end the meal with a dessert feel without dipping into the cookie jar or adding empty calories.

      Top your child’s cereal or oatmeal with fresh berries, bananas, or chopped apple to get a serving of fruit in with breakfast.

      Try freezing berries, orange segments, or grapes for a healthy take on homemade popsicle. Sliced bananas topped with a little orange juice and frozen in a paper cup are another option.

      Grains

      Try to serve whole grain items with low sugar content for breakfast. Whole grains help your child to feel full longer, making whole grains a great option for breakfast.

      Always read the back of a package to check for whole grains. Sometimes the front of the box will say whole grain, but there might not be a lot of whole grains in the pasta, bread, or cereal. Whole grains should be the number one ingredient on the list.

      Incorporate whole grains slowly if your child isn’t used to them. Try mixing whole wheat pasta with white pasta and gradually adding more wheat pasta over time until he gets used to the texture and taste. This works with rice too, and also helps parents who might need to get used to the whole wheat pasta versions.

      Try using oats more. Oats are a great source of whole grain and are very versatile. They can be added to breads, muffins, and cookies. Combined with yogurt for parfaits or used to make homemade granola, oats are a great way to add in whole grains to your child’s diet.

      Protein

      If peanut allergies are a concern at school, pack your child a sandwich made with sun butter instead of peanut butter. Sun butter is made from sunflower seeds and is safe for sufferers of tree-nut allergies. You could also try almond butter or pumpkin seed butter as substitutes for peanut butter.

      Swap out regular yogurt with low-fat Greek yogurt, which has more protein than its counterpart. Greek yogurt is a little tarter than regular yogurt and can be sweetened with fruit or a little honey.

      Edamame, or immature soybeans, in their shell can be a fun and healthy snack or appetizer. Teach your child to get the beans out of their pods and enjoy.

      Try hard-boiling eggs ahead of time to save time in the morning. Hard boiled eggs make an easy grab-and-go breakfast item. Add a banana, and a piece of whole-grain toast and you can still provide a healthy breakfast even if your child doesn’t have time to sit down and eat.

      Dairy

      If your child has a diagnosis of lactose intolerance, milk substitutes such as calcium-fortified soy milk or almond milk are good options. Vegetables like collard greens, kale and soybeans also provide calcium, though in smaller amounts. However, calcium from these sources it is not absorbed as well as the calcium in dairy foods.

      Stock up on low-fat string cheese. Easily packable, low-fat string cheese makes a good snack for kids who are on the go. String cheese is also good for packed lunches.

      Use milk instead of water when preparing hot cereals, oatmeal, and soups. This is an easy way to increase your child’s dairy intake without pouring her a glass of milk.

      Oils & Fats

      Try adding some avocado to a smoothie for added creaminess and healthy fats.

      If you use margarine, try to buy products in a tub rather than a stick. There is less trans fat in margarine sold in a tub than in stick margarine.

      Stay away from harmful trans fat. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list this means there is trans fat in the product, even if it says 0 trans fat on the front of the label.

      Check the label on packaged foods for bad fats. Saturated fats and trans fats fall into the unhealthy fat category. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (liquid fats) are better fats, and are found in vegetable and olive oils, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon.

      Sodium & Salt

      The best way to reduce your child’s salt and sodium intake is to feed her fresh, whole foods and to stay away from processed foods as much as possible.

      Read the labels of the foods you’re buying. Since every brand and cook are different, looking for lower sodium options will really help cut back your child’s intake.

      Don’t leave a salt shaker on the table. If you’d like to have added flavor available, try making your own herb mix to keep on the table. Garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano or thyme are good options to mix together to add flavor without adding sodium.

      Added Sugars

      Teach your child about moderation. Making a food forbidden may make your child want it more. Instead, focus on eating sweet treats only on special occasions and not every day.

      Try using peanut butter or warmed fruit instead of using syrup to top pancakes or waffles. Your child may not even miss the syrup and substituting a serving of protein or fruit for the sugar makes breakfast even healthier.

      Add cucumber or mint to water. This will sweeten the flavor of the water and may appeal to your child, who might otherwise not enjoy plain water.

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer, so it’s especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend.

      Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities he is doing in gym class or at recess. This will give you a better understanding of his overall level of physical activity.

      Encourage physical activity by giving your child toys that require movement, such as a kite, scooter, or jump rope.

      If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity more enjoyable for him. For example, inviting friends over to play outside might motivate him. Or having you offer to kick a ball or play catch with him could spark his interest.

      Explore age-appropriate lessons and sports for your 2nd grader. These might include gymnastics, ballet, or soccer. As your child’s gross motor skills become more refined, he may express an interest in sports that even a year ago were too difficult for him. Expose him to as many options for physical activities and sports as possible. Community organizations like the local YMCA often offer affordable and kid-friendly yoga or Tae Kwon Do classes.

      It is around this age that some children start to demonstrate natural athletic ability and inclination, while others begin to resist physical activity and to think of themselves as “not sporty.” Even if he doesn’t seem to take to sports naturally, encourage your child to try out different activities and to find one that suits him. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let him sample a variety of sports to find his interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or archery that might appeal to him. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” he learns to enjoy participating and pushing himself to improve.

      Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.

      Emphasize safety to your child. Teach him to be vigilant when crossing the street and to play safely around cars. Show him how important it is to play safely with other children and on playground equipment, for example by avoiding falling on his neck and head.

      Sleep

      Consistency is the key to your child’s sleep success. Ensure that he gets to bed and wakes up around the same time on weekdays and weekends. Your child may try to sleep in on the weekends, which is likely a sign that he is not getting enough sleep. Experts recommend that his bedtime on the weekends be within an hour of his weekday bedtime and that he should sleep for about the same amount of time.

      Establish a relaxing nightly routine for your child before bed. This could include tidying up his toys, reading bedtime stories, taking a warm bath and brushing his teeth.

      Your child may try to extend his nightly routine in order to delay his bedtime. Experts say you can incorporate some flexibility, for example, by allowing him to pick a bedtime story or a cheery song, but it is important to establish boundaries by limiting his number of choices. To be effective, this routine should last no longer than 30 minutes. Try to leave his bedroom prior to him falling asleep.

      Encourage your child to play with his toys on the floor of his bedroom or in another room, reserving his bed solely for sleeping. By limiting the other activities that take place on his bed, your son will begin to associate the bed with sleep time.

      Make a family rule to turn off the television and other electronic devices at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Extended screen usage, especially right before bed, is often associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep and nightmares. Experts recommend removing the television from your child’s bedroom to ensure that it is a quiet and dark environment.

      It is important to send consistent messages about the importance of sleep. Try praising your child after a good night’s sleep. Avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bed time as a reward. To create a positive message around sleep, you can make a sticker board and reward him with a star for every night he gets to bed on time.

      It is important to send consistent messages about the importance of sleep. Try praising your child after a good night’s sleep. Avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bed time as a reward. To create a positive message around sleep, you can make a sticker board and reward him with a star for every night he gets to bed on time.  

      Caffeine is a stimulant that can prevent your child from falling asleep. Five hours before his bedtime, avoid feeding your child soda, tea, or other caffeinated beverages. Caffeine has also been found to stimulate urination and can contribute to bedwetting.

      Hygiene

      By the time they reach 2nd grade many children are almost ready to take full responsibility for their personal hygiene. However, parents should remain involved and supervise bathing or showering to the extent that they feel is necessary. It’s normal for your child to become more modest at around this age and to resist intrusion into his bathroom routine, so strike a balance between respecting his privacy and making sure that his body is being cleaned effectively.

      The precise age at which children are ready to bathe or shower on their own varies from child to child. Often, children will indicate that they are ready for more privacy and would prefer to start washing themselves, but the transition is usually gradual and parents will still need to weigh in with advice or to check that everything has been properly cleansed. Some children, especially girls with long hair, might still require help with shampooing or rinsing out conditioner even after they have mastered washing the rest of their body. As children start bathing on their own, be patient as they learn the ropes and allocate extra time if necessary.

      Most children do not need to wash their hair every day. How often your child’s hair needs to be washed will depend on a number of factors, including hair length, whether your child is taking part in sports, and whether the hair is curly or straight. 

      Although many children do not need to use deodorant before puberty, some may have a strong enough body odor that they should start applying deodorant sooner. If your child is taking part in sports and sweats a lot he may need to start wearing deodorant regularly. Let your nose be your guide.

      Make sure that your child understands the importance of washing hands and the connection between cleanliness and staying healthy. Don’t rely too much on hand sanitizers and instead make sure your child knows how to wash his hands effectively with soap and water. Teach your child to wash hands:

      • after using the bathroom
      • before eating
      • before and after handling or preparing food
      • after coming in from outside
      • after blowing his nose or sneezing
      • before and after visiting sick friends or relatives
      • after touching cats, dogs, and other animals
      • after touching garbage

      Teach your child to sneeze or cough, not into his hand, but into the crook of his arm

      Teach your child not to pick his nose or bite his nails.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups, just as he sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child’s oral hygiene with his dentist and ask about measures such as fluoride supplements and dental sealants, which protect your child’s teeth against cavities and decay.

      By the end of 2nd grade your child might have lost most or all of his baby teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene habits is more important than ever. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning. 

      Your child should be brushing his teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Although your child should be brushing his teeth on his own by now, he may still need help to make sure that his teeth are thoroughly cleaned. 

      Flossing may still be a challenge and should be supervised until your child’s manual dexterity is advanced enough to make sure he is doing a thorough job.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, and if left untreated can result in severe complications.

      Find out if the water where you live has added fluoride and, if it is not, ask your dentist about strategies for protecting your child’s teeth. Use a fluoride toothpaste.

      Limit your child’s consumption of sugary or sticky foods, which are the main culprits in tooth decay.  Teach your child to use his tongue to clean off his teeth immediately after he has eaten foods that stick to his teeth.

      Limit juice consumption to mealtimes and dilute sweet juices with water to cut down on their sugar content.

      Avoid or severely restrict consumption of soft drinks and sodas.

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3rd Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Ask your child to get involved in meal planning. Continue to increase your child’s participation in the process, as it will keep her engaged and interested. Look through cookbooks and magazines and try new recipes together.

      Make mealtime free of distractions to allow your child to focus on eating. This means no TV, smartphones, or other gadgets during meals. This is a great time to connect as a family and keeping distractions at bay helps your child listen to her body and focus on what she’s eating, when she’s full, and when she’d like more.

      Have a family pizza night and make your own pies. Your 3rd grader probably loves pizza, which doesn’t always have to be junk food. Let your child put her own toppings on. Use whole wheat dough, low sodium tomato sauce, different kinds of vegetables, and low-fat cheese. It’s a healthy and fun way to eat a range of food groups.

      Make sure healthier options are easier to reach at eye-level and treats are out of site. Third graders have more independence around the kitchen at this age, meaning they will grab snacks from the fridge or cupboard on their own. If the only foods available are healthy, making a healthy choice is easier.

      Let your child choose what ingredients go into a salad to increase her participation in healthy meal planning and show that her opinion on what she eats matters.

      Be creative with how you present food to your 3rd grader. She is likely to be more adventurous at this age than she was before and presenting healthy options in creative ways can lead her to try new foods. Tired of a side salad at dinner? Try making a taco salad as a main dish and let your child decide what goes into hers. Grilled chicken breast strips, black beans, corn, peppers, avocado, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, brown rice, and low-fat cheese are all good ingredients to include. Instead of a high-calorie salad dressing, try using salsa for a flavorful and healthier alternative.

      Have your child run the buttons on the blender as you make smoothies, or have her peel potatoes with a vegetable peeler. At this age, she can be more helpful in the kitchen. Getting her involved in the process will get her more invested and interested in the food she’ll be eating.

      Take your child grocery shopping with you and get her involved in bagging and weighing produce. Some grocery stores have scanners children can use, which can be a fun way to get her involved as well.

      Vegetables

      Present your child with different vegetables and let her decide which to eat. This will support her independence while encouraging her to eat vegetables on her own. Offer a side of carrots, sweet potato, or green beans and let her choose which one she would like to have for dinner.

      Try adding more vegetables to spaghetti to increase vegetable consumption. Adding peppers, mushrooms, or chopped broccoli to the sauce is one option. Another is using a vegetable peeler to turn zucchini into “noodles” by thinly slicing the zucchini and either adding to spaghetti noodles or using just the zucchini as the pasta.

      Try having a “veggie night” once a week. Serve veggie dogs or veggie burgers, hummus with cut vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers, and baked sweet potato fries. Committing to one night a week will challenge both you and your child to try vegetables in different ways and see them as more than just a side dish.

      Put your 3rd grader in charge of making a salad for everyone on her own and try your best not to intervene. Connecticut-based pediatric nutritionist Dr. Deb Kennedy says your child will feel very empowered as she masters making a dish by herself.

      Fruits

      Keep cut-up fruit in single serve bags in the refrigerator at eye-level and encourage your child to eat them as a snack. When fruit is readily available and easy to eat your child is more likely to choose it.

      If possible, take a family trip to a local apple orchard. Let your child pick apples and discuss the different kinds of apples available. When you’re home, you can taste-test the apples and see which ones you all like best. You’ll not only get to promote healthy eating, the outing makes fun family time and gets you all moving.

      Focus on fruit as dessert. The natural sweetness in fruits provides a great way to end the meal with a dessert feel without dipping into the cookie jar or adding empty calories.

      Top your child’s cereal or oatmeal with fresh berries, bananas, or chopped apple to get a serving of fruit in with breakfast. Let your child make the choice of which fruit she would like to add.

      Try freezing berries, segments of orange, or grapes for a healthy take on homemade popsicles. Sliced bananas topped with a little orange juice and frozen in a paper cup are another option.

      Grains

      Try to serve whole grain items with low sugar content, like oatmeal or whole wheat toast, for breakfast. Whole grains help your child to feel full longer, which makes them a great option for breakfast.

      Always try to read the back of a package to check for whole grains. Sometimes the front of the box will say “whole grain,” but there might not actually be a lot of whole grains in the pasta, bread, or cereal. Whole grains should be the number one ingredient on the list.

      Try incorporating whole grains slowly if your child isn’t used to them. Try mixing whole wheat pasta with white pasta and gradually adding more wheat pasta over time until he gets used to the texture and taste. This works for rice too, and even with sandwiches. Try one slice of wheat and one of white bread.

      Oats are a great source of whole grain, and are very versatile. They can be added to breads, muffins, and cookies. Combined with yogurt for parfaits or used to make homemade granola, oats are a great way to add whole grains to your child’s diet.

      Protein

      If peanut allergies are a concern at school, pack your child a sandwich made with sun butter instead of peanut butter. Sun butter is made from sunflower seeds and is safe for sufferers of tree-nut allergies. You could also try almond butter or pumpkin seed butter as substitutes for butters.

      Swap out yogurt for low-fat Greek yogurt, which has more protein than its counterpart. Greek yogurt is a little tarter than regular yogurt and can be sweetened with fruit or a small amount of honey.

      Edamame, or immature soybeans, in their shell can be a fun and healthy snack or appetizer. Teach your child to get the beans out of their pods and enjoy.

      Try hard-boiling eggs ahead of time if you often run short of time in the morning. Hard-boiled eggs make an easy grab-and-go breakfast item. Add a banana and a piece of whole-grain toast and you can still provide a healthy breakfast even if your child doesn’t have time to sit down and eat.

      Dairy

      If your child has a diagnosis of lactose intolerance, milk substitutes such as lactose-free cow’s milk, calcium-fortified soy milk, or almond milk are good options. Vegetables such as collard greens, kale, and soybeans also provide calcium, though in smaller amounts. However, the calcium in these vegetables is not absorbed as well as the calcium in dairy foods. Georgia-based pediatrician Dr. Jatinder Bhatia says even children with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of dairy and may use products such as Lactaid to enable the consumption of dairy.

      Try stocking up on low-fat string cheese. Easily packable, low-fat string cheese makes a good snack for kids who are on the go. String cheese is also good for packed lunches.

      Use low-fat milk instead of water when preparing hot cereal, oatmeal, or soups. This is an easy way to increase your child’s dairy intake without pouring her a glass of milk.

      Oils & Fats

      Let your child know that all fat is not necessarily bad or unhealthy. In fact, fat is essential for life, says Connecticut-based pediatric nutritionist Dr. Deb Kennedy. It’s the type of fat that makes a huge difference.

      For added healthy fats and creaminess, try adding some avocado to a smoothie.

      Stay away from harmful trans fat. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list this means there is trans fat in the product, even if it says 0 trans fat on the front of the label.

      If you use margarine, try to buy products in a tub rather than a stick. There is less trans fat in margarine sold in a tub than in stick margarine.

      Try to always check the label and be on the lookout for bad fats in packaged foods. Saturated fats and trans fats fall into the unhealthy fat category. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (liquid fats) are better fats, and are found in vegetable and olive oils, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon.

      Sodium & Salt

      The best way to reduce your child’s salt and sodium intake is to feed her fresh, whole foods, and to stay away from processed foods as much as possible.

      Read the labels of foods you’re buying to help reduce your child’s salt and sodium intake. Since every brand and cook is different, looking for lower sodium options will really help cut back your child’s intake. Items with less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving are considered lower sodium.

      Don’t leave a salt shaker on the table. If you’d like to have added flavor available, try making your own herb mix to keep on the table. Garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano or thyme are good options to mix together to add flavor without adding sodium.

      Added Sugars

      Teach your child about moderation. Making a food forbidden may make your child want it more. Instead, focus on eating sweet treats only on special occasions and not every day.

      Try using peanut butter or warmed fruit instead of using syrup to top pancakes or waffles. Your child may not even miss the syrup and substituting a serving of protein or fruit for the sugar makes the breakfast healthier.

      Try adding a small amount of maple syrup or fruit to oatmeal or low-fat yogurt. Adding sweeteners yourself allows you to control the amount your child consumes. American Heart Association spokeswoman Dr. Rachel Johnson suggests mixing sweetened yogurt to plain yogurt to cut the amount of sugar while keeping the flavor your child may be used to.

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities she is doing in gym class or at recess. This will give you a better understanding of her overall level of physical activity.

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer, so it’s especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend.

      Encourage physical activity by giving your child toys that require movement, such as a kite, scooter, or jump rope.

      Explore age-appropriate lessons and sports for your 3rd grader. These might include gymnastics, ballet classes, soccer, or little league. As her gross motor skills become more refined, she may express an interest in sports that even a year ago were too difficult for her. Expose her to as many options for physical activities and sports as possible. Community organizations like the local YMCA often offer affordable and kid-friendly yoga or Tae Kwon Do classes.

      If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity more enjoyable for her. For example, inviting friends over to play outside might motivate her. Or having you offer to kick a ball or play catch with her could spark her interest.

      It is around this age that some children start to demonstrate natural athletic ability and inclination, while others begin to resist physical activity and to think of themselves as “not sporty.” Even if she doesn’t seem to take to sports naturally, encourage your child to try out different activities and to find one that suits her. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let her sample a variety of sports to find her interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or archery that might appeal to her. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” she learns to enjoy participating and pushing herself to improve.

      Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.

      Emphasize safety to your child. Teach her to be vigilant when crossing the street and to play safely around cars. Show her how important it is to play safely with other children and on playground equipment, for example by avoiding falling on her neck and head.

      Sleep

      Children are the most rested when they have a consistent sleep schedule. Experts caution that a change to her normal sleep schedule on the weekends can actually make it harder for your child to get out of bed when Monday rolls back around. To minimize this grogginess, allow your daughter to go to bed no more than an hour later than her normal weekday bed-time and sleep in no more than two hours past her usual wake time.

      Keep the evening household environment as calm as possible. As it gets closer to bedtime, have your child participate in quiet, passive activities, like reading a book, instead of active play, which can overexcite her and make it harder to fall asleep. Also avoid watching television shows or movies that may contain violence right before bedtime since they may frighten your child.

      Establish an electronic curfew at least 30 minutes prior to your child’s bedtime. Have her store all electronic devices, like video games and tablets, in places outside of her room and avoid putting a television or computer in her bedroom. This will ensure that she can prepare for sleep without electronic temptations. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by also turning off your cell phone and other technological devices.

      If you notice that your child consistently needs assistance waking up, is tired and grumpy, is regularly falling asleep in the car or at school and/or is constantly misbehaving during the day, she is most likely not getting enough sleep. Consider adjusting her bedtime earlier by incrementally changing it by 15 minutes until you notice improvements in her mood and functioning during the day.

      Caffeine is a stimulant that can prevent your child from falling asleep. Five hours before her bedtime, avoid feeding your child soda, tea, or other caffeinated beverages.

      Your child may ask to invite friends over for a sleepover. Despite their name, sleepovers seldom include a lot of restful sleep. To help minimize the disruptive effect of having friends spend the night, experts suggest scheduling these events on Friday evenings. This allows her two days to recover and enables your daughter to go to school on Monday refreshed. If that is not feasible, allow your child to sleep in past her normal wake time after a sleepover and encourage her to go to bed earlier the next evening.

      It is important to send consistent messages about the importance of sleep. Try praising your child after a good night’s sleep. Avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bedtime as a reward.

      Hygiene

      By the time they reach 3rd grade many children are almost ready to take full responsibility for their personal hygiene. However, parents should remain involved and supervise bathing or showering to the extent that they feel is necessary. It’s normal for your child to become more modest at around this age and to resist intrusion into her bathroom routine, so strike a balance between respecting her privacy and making sure that her body is being cleaned effectively.

      The precise age at which children are ready to bathe or shower on their own varies from child to child. Often, children will indicate that they are ready for more privacy and would prefer to start washing themselves, but the transition is usually gradual and parents will still need to weigh in with advice or to check that everything has been properly cleansed. Some children, especially girls with long hair, might still require help with shampooing or rinsing out conditioner even after they have mastered washing the rest of their body. As children start bathing on their own, be patient as they learn the ropes and allocate extra time if necessary.

      Most children do not need to wash their hair every day. How often your child’s hair needs to be washed will depend on a number of factors, including hair length, whether your child is taking part in sports, and whether the hair is curly or straight.

      Although many children do not need to use deodorant before puberty, some may have a strong enough body odor that they should start applying deodorant sooner. Especially if your child is taking part in sports and sweats a lot she may need to start wearing deodorant regularly. Let your nose be your guide.

      Make sure that your child understands the importance of washing hands and the connection between cleanliness and staying healthy. Don’t rely too much on hand sanitizers and instead make sure your child knows how to wash her hands effectively with soap and water. Teach your child to wash hands:

      • After using the bathroom
      • Before eating
      • Before and after handling or preparing food
      • After coming in from outside
      • After blowing her nose or sneezing
      • Before and after visiting sick friends or relatives
      • After touching cats, dogs, and other animals
      • After touching garbage

      Teach your child to sneeze or cough, not into her hand, but into the crook of her arm.

      Teach your child not to pick her nose or bite her nails.

      Teach your child not to scratch her private parts in public.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups, just as she sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child’s oral hygiene with her dentist and ask about measures such as fluoride supplements and dental sealants, which protect your child’s teeth against cavities and decay.

      By the end of 3rd grade your child might have lost most or all of her baby teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene habits is more important than ever. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning.

      Your child should be brushing her teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Although your child should be brushing her teeth on her own by now, she may still need help to make sure that her teeth are thoroughly cleaned.

      Flossing may still be a challenge and should be supervised until your child’s manual dexterity is advanced enough to make sure she is doing a thorough job.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, and if left untreated can result in severe complications.

      Find out if the water where you live has added fluoride and, if it is not, ask your dentist about strategies for protecting your child’s teeth. Use a fluoride toothpaste.

      Limit your child’s consumption of sugary or sticky foods, which are the main culprits in tooth decay. Teach your child to use her tongue to clean off her teeth immediately after she has eaten foods that stick to her teeth.

      Limit juice consumption to mealtimes and dilute sweet juices with water to cut down on their sugar content.

      Avoid or severely restrict consumption of soft drinks and sodas.

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4th Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Ask your child to help in meal planning. As your child gets older, keeping him involved in the meal process will keep him engaged and interested. Look through cookbooks and magazines and try new recipes together.

      Make mealtime free of distractions so your child can focus on eating. This means no TV, smartphones, or other gadgets during meals. This is a great time to connect as a family and keeping distractions at bay helps your child listen to his body and focus on what he’s eating, when he’s full, and when he’d like more.

      Have a family pizza night and make your own pies. Your 4th grader probably loves pizza, which doesn’t always have to be junk food. Let your child participate in putting his toppings on. Use whole wheat dough, low sodium tomato sauce, different kinds of vegetables, and low-fat cheese. It’s a healthy and fun way to get a range of food groups.

      Try to make sure healthier options are easier to reach and that treats are out of sight. 4th graders have more independence around the kitchen at this age, meaning they will grab snacks from the fridge or cupboard on their own. If the only foods available are healthy, making a healthy choice is easier.

      Let your child decide what goes into a salad to increase his participation in healthy choices and show that his opinion about what he eats matters.

      Be creative with how you present food to your 4th grader. He is likely to be more adventurous at this age than he was before and presenting healthy options in creative ways can lead him to try new foods. Tired of a side salad at dinner? Try making a taco salad as a main dish and let your child decide what goes into his. Grilled chicken breast strips, black beans, corn, peppers, avocado, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, brown rice, and low-fat cheese are all good options to include. Instead of a high-calorie salad dressing, try using salsa for a flavorful and healthier alternative.

      At this age, your child can help out more in the kitchen. Have him run the buttons on the blender as you make smoothies, or have him peel potatoes with a vegetable peeler. Getting him involved in the process will get him more invested and interested in the food he’ll be eating.

      Take your child grocery shopping with you and get him involved in bagging and weighing produce and scanning items.

      Vegetables

      Present your 4th grader with healthy options and let him decide which to eat. This will help support your child’s independence and encourage him to choose vegetables on his own. Offer a side of carrots, sweet potato, or green beans and let him choose which one he would like to have for dinner.

      Try adding more vegetables to spaghetti to increase vegetable consumption. Adding peppers, mushrooms, or chopped broccoli to the sauce is one option. Another is using a vegetable peeler to turn zucchini into “noodles” by thinly slicing the zucchini and either adding to spaghetti noodles or using just the zucchini as the pasta.

      Try having a “veggie night” once a week. Serve veggie dogs or veggie burgers, hummus with cut vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers, and baked sweet potato fries. Committing to one night a week will challenge both you and your child to try vegetables in different ways and see them as more than just a side dish.

      Put your 4th grader in charge of making a salad for everyone by himself and try your best not to intervene. Connecticut pediatric nutritionist Dr. Deb Kennedy says your child will feel very empowered as he masters making a dish on his own.

      Fruits

      Keep cut-up fruit in single-serve bags in the refrigerator at eye level to encourage your child to eat it as a snack. When fruit is readily available and easy-to-eat your child is more likely to choose it.

      If it’s an option for your family, try to take a trip to a local apple orchard. Let your child pick apples and discuss the different kinds of apples available. When you’re home, you can taste-test the apples and see which ones you all like best. You’ll not only get to promote healthy eating, the outing makes good family time and gets you all moving.

      Focus on fruit as dessert. The natural sweetness in fruits provides a great way to end the meal with a dessert feel without dipping into the cookie jar or adding empty calories.

      Top your child’s cereal or oatmeal with fresh berries, bananas, or chopped apple to get a serving of fruit in with breakfast. Let your child choose which fruit he would like to add.

      Try freezing berries, segments of orange, or grapes for a healthy take on homemade popsicles. Sliced bananas topped with a little orange juice and frozen in a paper cup are another option.

      Grains

      Try to serve whole grain items with low sugar content, like oatmeal or whole wheat toast, for breakfast to keep your child full and satisfied. Whole grains help him feel full longer, making whole grains a great option for breakfast. Look for products with 10 or fewer grams of sugar per serving and 3 or more grams of fiber.

      Always try to read the back of a package to check for whole grains. Sometimes the front of the box will say “whole grain,” but there might not actually be a lot of whole grains in the pasta, bread, or cereal. Whole grains should be the number one ingredient on the list.

      If your child isn’t used to whole grains, try to incorporate them slowly. Try mixing whole wheat pasta with white pasta and gradually adding more whole wheat pasta over time until he gets used to the texture and taste. This works for rice too, and even with sandwiches. Try one slice of wheat and one white bread.

      Oats are a great source of whole grain and are very versatile. They can be added to breads, muffins, and cookies. Combined with yogurt for parfaits or used to make homemade granola, oats are a great way to add whole grains to your child’s diet.

      Protein

      If peanut allergies are a concern at school, pack your child a sandwich made with sun butter instead of peanut butter. Sun butter is made from sunflower seeds and is safe for sufferers of tree-nut allergies. You could also try almond butter or pumpkin seed butter as substitutes for peanut butter.

      Swap out regular yogurt for low-fat Greek yogurt, which has more protein than its counterpart. Greek yogurt is a bit more tart than regular yogurt and can be sweetened with fruit or a little honey.

      Edamame, or immature soybeans, in their shell can be a fun and healthy snack or appetizer. Teach your child to remove the beans from their pods and enjoy.

      If you’re often short on time in the morning, try hard-boiling eggs ahead of time. Hard-boiled eggs make an easy grab-and-go breakfast item. Add a banana and a piece of whole-grain toast and you can still provide a healthy breakfast even if your child doesn’t have time to sit down and eat in the morning.

      Dairy

      If your child has a diagnosis of lactose intolerance, milk substitutes such as lactose-free cow's milk, fortified soy milk, or almond milk are good options. Georgia-based Pediatrician Dr. Jatinder Bhatia says that even children with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of dairy and may use products such as Lactaid to enable the consumption of dairy.

      Easily packable, low-fat string cheese makes a good snack for kids that are on the go. String cheese is also good for packed lunches.

      Try to use milk instead of water when preparing hot cereal, oatmeal, or soup. This is an easy way to increase your child’s dairy intake without pouring him a glass of milk.

      Oils & Fats

      Let your child know that fat is not necessarily bad or unhealthy, that in fact it is essential for life, says Connecticut-based pediatric nutritionist Dr. Deb Kennedy. It’s the type of fat that makes a huge difference.

      Try to stay away from harmful trans-fats. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list this means there is trans-fat in the product, even if it says 0 trans-fat on the front of the label.

      If you use margarine, try to buy products in a tub rather than a stick. There is less trans-fat in margarine sold in a tub than in stick margarine.

      If you want to avoid the bad fats in pre-packaged foods, check the label. Saturated fats and trans fats fall into the unhealthy fat category. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (liquid fats) are better fats, and are found in vegetable and olive oils, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon.

      Sodium & Salt

      The best way to reduce your child’s salt and sodium intake is to feed him fresh, whole foods, and to stay away from processed foods as much as possible.

      Try to read the labels of foods you’re buying to help reduce your child’s salt and sodium intake. Since every brand and cook are different, looking for lower sodium options will really help cut back your child’s intake. Pediatric nutritionist Dr. Deb Kennedy of Build Healthy Kids in Connecticut suggests looking at the label for items with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.

      Try not to leave a salt shaker on the table. If you’d like to have added flavor available, try making your own herb mix to keep on the table. Garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano or thyme are good options to mix together to add flavor without adding sodium.

      Added Sugars

      At this age your child is used to the school cafeteria, and it’s likely he notices the differences in how his peers eat. He will probably be influenced by peers who may want unhealthy choices like candy and soda. Try to emphasize to him that sweet treats are an occasional indulgence, and not an everyday occurrence.

      Try using peanut butter or warmed fruit instead of using syrup to top pancakes or waffles. Your child may not even miss the syrup and substituting a serving of protein or fruit for sugar makes the breakfast even healthier.

      Try adding a small amount of maple syrup or fruit to oatmeal or yogurt. Adding sweeteners yourself allows you to control the amount your child consumes. American Heart Association spokeswoman Dr. Rachel Johnson suggests mixing sweetened yogurt with plain yogurt to cut the amount of sugar while keeping the flavor your child may be used to.

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities he is doing in gym class or at recess. This will give you a better understanding of his overall level of physical activity.

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer, so it’s especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend.

      Encourage physical activity by giving your child toys that require movement, such as a kite, scooter, or jump rope.

      If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity more enjoyable for him. For example, inviting friends over to play outside might motivate him. Or having you offer to kick a ball or play catch with him could spark his interest.

      It is around this age that some children start to demonstrate natural athletic ability and inclination, while others begin to resist physical activity and to think of themselves as “not sporty.” Even if he doesn’t seem to take to sports naturally, encourage your child to try out different activities and to find one that suits him. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let him sample a variety of sports to find his interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or archery that might appeal to him. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” he learns to enjoy participating and pushing himself to improve.

      Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.

      Emphasize safety to your child. Teach him to be vigilant when crossing the street and to play safely around cars. Show him how important it is to play safely with other children and on playground equipment, for example by avoiding falling on his neck and head.

      Sleep

      Children are the most rested when they have a consistent sleep schedule. Experts caution that a change to a child’s normal sleep schedule on the weekends can actually make it harder for him to get out of bed when Monday rolls back around. To minimize this grogginess, allow your son to go to bed no more than an hour later than his normal weekday bedtime and sleep in no more than two hours past his usual wake time.

      Keep the evening household environment as calm as possible. As it gets closer to bedtime, have your child participate in quiet, passive activities, like reading a book, instead of active play, which can overexcite him and make it harder to fall asleep. Also avoid watching television shows or movies that may contain violence right before bedtime since they may frighten your child.

      Establish an electronic curfew at least 30 minutes prior to your child’s bedtime. Have him store all electronic devices, like video games and tablets, in places outside of his room and avoid putting a television or computer in his bedroom. This will ensure that he can prepare for sleep without electronic temptations. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by also turning off your cell phone and other technological devices.

      If you notice that your child consistently needs assistance waking up on a daily basis, is tired and grumpy, is regularly falling asleep in the car or at school and/or is constantly misbehaving during the day, he is most likely not getting enough sleep. Consider adjusting his bedtime earlier by incrementally changing it by 15 minutes until you notice improvements in his mood and functioning during the day.

      Caffeine is a stimulant that can prevent your child from falling asleep. Five hours before his bedtime, avoid feeding your child soda, tea, or other caffeinated beverages.

      Your child may ask to invite friends over for a sleepover. Despite to their name, sleepovers seldom include a lot of restful sleep. To help minimize the disruptive effect of having friends spend the night, experts suggest scheduling these events on Friday evenings. This allows your child two days to recover and enables your him to go to school on Monday refreshed. If that is not feasible, allow your child to sleep in past his normal wake time after a sleepover and encourage him to go to bed earlier the next evening.

      It is important to send consistent messages about the importance of sleep. Try praising your child after a good night’s sleep. Avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bed time as a reward.

      Hygiene

      By the time they reach 4th grade many children are almost ready to take full responsibility for their personal hygiene. However, parents should remain involved and supervise bathing or showering to the extent that they feel is necessary. It’s normal for your child to become more modest at around this age and to resist intrusion into his bathroom routine, so strike a balance between respecting his privacy and making sure that his body is being cleaned effectively.

      The precise age at which children are ready to bathe or shower on their own varies from child to child. Often, children will indicate that they are ready for more privacy and would prefer to start washing themselves, but the transition is usually gradual and parents will still need to weigh in with advice or to check that everything has been properly cleansed. Some children, especially girls with long hair, might still require help with shampooing or rinsing out conditioner even after they have mastered washing the rest of their body. As children start bathing on their own, be patient as they learn the ropes and allocate extra time if necessary.

      Most children do not need to wash their hair every day. How often your child’s hair needs to be washed will depend on a number of factors, including hair length, whether your child is taking part in sports, and whether the hair is curly or straight.

      Although many children do not need to use deodorant before puberty, some may have a strong enough body odor that they should start applying deodorant sooner. Especially if your child is taking part in sports and sweats a lot he may need to start wearing deodorant regularly. Let your nose be your guide.

      Make sure that your child understands the importance of washing hands and the connection between cleanliness and staying healthy. Don’t rely too much on hand sanitizers and instead make sure your child knows how to wash his hands effectively with soap and water. Teach your child to wash hands:

      • after using the bathroom
      • before eating
      • before and after handling or preparing food
      • after coming in from outside
      • after blowing his nose or sneezing
      • before and after visiting sick friends or relatives
      • after touching cats, dogs, and other animals
      • after touching garbage

      Teach your child to sneeze or cough, not into his hand, but into the crook of his arm.

      Teach your child not to pick his nose or bite his nails.

      Teach your child not to scratch his private parts in public.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups, just as he sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child’s oral hygiene with his dentist and ask about measures such as fluoride supplements and dental sealants, which protect your child’s teeth against cavities and decay.

      By the end of 4th grade your child might have lost most or all of his baby teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene habits is more important than ever. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning.

      Your child should be brushing his teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Although your child should be brushing his teeth on his own by now, he may still need help to make sure that his teeth are thoroughly cleaned.

      Flossing may still be a challenge and should be supervised until your child’s manual dexterity is advanced enough to make sure he is doing a thorough job.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, and if left untreated can result in severe complications.

      Find out if the water where you live has added fluoride and, if it is not, ask your dentist about strategies for protecting your child’s teeth. Use a fluoride toothpaste.

      Limit your child’s consumption of sugary or sticky foods, which are the main culprits in tooth decay. Teach your child to use his tongue to clean off his teeth immediately after he has eaten foods that stick to his teeth.

      Limit juice consumption to mealtimes and dilute sweet juices with water to cut down on their sugar content.

      Avoid or severely restrict consumption of soft drinks and sodas.

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5th Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Encourage your child to get involved in meal planning and preparation. For example, have her decide the ingredients in a salad and make it her responsibility from the grocery store to the dinner table.

      Help your child listen to her body during meal time by removing distractions. That means no texting, no TV, no computer, or other gadgets at the table. This will help her identify when she's full and when she'd like more.

      Keep items in your kitchen healthy. If you buy chips or cookies, your child will eat them. While she's helping herself to snacks in the kitchen, making a healthy choice is easy if it's the only choice she has.

      Teach your child about the importance of a well-balanced meal. Have her demonstrate that knowledge by packing her own lunch, or occasionally planning the family dinner. Make sure she has half the plate filled with fruits and vegetables.

      Try fruit pizza for a fun and healthy treat. Let your child and her siblings or friends assemble the snack. Use whole wheat baked crust, low-fat cream cheese or Greek yogurt, and top with kiwi, strawberries, banana, and blueberries. You could add a small amount of honey to sweeten.

      Vegetables

      Bring your child to a farmer’s market, or produce section of the supermarket, and have her pick out a vegetable she hasn’t tried before. You can find a recipe and prepare the new vegetable together.

      If your child has siblings, try an at-home cooking competition. Give each child the same vegetables and ask them to prepare them for the family to taste test. A friendly competition can get everyone thinking about new ways to eat vegetables.

      Add vegetables to soups and pasta sauces. Even if you don’t make your own soup or sauces, some added vegetables to low-sodium broth can increase your child’s vegetable intake.

      Have an at-home salad bar for dinner. Finely chop a variety of vegetables and let your child add her own toppings. Some children don’t love lettuce, but once it’s chopped with a lot of other vegetables, even fruits and nuts, it can be more appealing.

      Serve vegetables that are high in iron and protein for your 5th grader to support her growth. Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are all good options.

      Fruits

      Keep fruits available and easily accessible to help your child choose fruits as a healthy snack. A fruit bowl on the counter with bananas, apples, and oranges is one good option. Or cut up fruits and place them in plastic bags in the refrigerator for easy access.

      Try to incorporate a serving of fruit to your child’s breakfast. A whole piece of fruit or sliced fruit in yogurt or cereal is a good option. Apples and bananas are good options for children who are on-the go. They can be easily packed, or eaten in the car or on the bus on the way to school.

      Try doing a small science experiment with your child. Choose different fruits and have your child guess which ones will dehydrate faster. Use a food dehydrator or oven to bake the fruits. Then see if she was right.

      Try adding fruits with iron such as prunes and raisins to your 5th grader’s diet to increase her iron intake.

      Grains

      To increase whole grains and experiment with new grains, cook brown rice with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). Add black beans, greens, and salsa for a healthy dinner bowl.

      Offer only whole grain cereal at breakfast. It’s is a good way to increase your child’s whole grain intake if she’s a fan of cereal in the morning. Check the label to make sure the main ingredient is whole grains. Add chopped fruits or dried fruits for sweetness instead of buying sugary cereals.

      Oatmeal is a great way to increase whole grain consumption for your child. Two-ingredient oatmeal cookies are a healthy treat she can make herself. Simply mix two mashed bananas with one cup of oatmeal, form into cookies and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

      Protein

      Swap in Greek yogurt for other yogurt. Greek yogurt has more protein than traditional yogurts. It can also be more tart. Add a touch of honey or fresh fruit if you child is used to a sweeter yogurt. You can also add Greek yogurt to a smoothie to increase protein.

      In addition to being a whole grain, quinoa is also high in protein. Trying recipes with quinoa or replacing rice in recipes with quinoa is a great way to add whole grains and more protein.

      Try substituting fish for beef in your family’s tacos. Popular for years in California, the fish taco is a great way to increase your child’s healthy protein intake. Tilapia or mahi mahi, which are white and flakey fish, are good options for a taco.

      Dairy

      For on-the-go kids, low-fat string cheese is a good snack. It can be packed for lunch, or grabbed as a quick snack.

      Use yogurt-based dips for vegetables as a healthy alternative to higher-calorie dressings or sour cream-based dips.

      Oils & Fats

      Stay away from harmful trans fats. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list, this means there is trans fat in the product, even if the front of the label says “0 trans fats.”

      Try cooking with vegetable oils instead of butter or margarine. It’s an easy substitution to make, and you’re swapping in healthier fats.

      Add ground flax meal to breads, pancakes, or waffles. You can even sprinkle ground flax onto cereals for added healthy fats.

      Sodium & Salt

      Try to make as many meals at home as possible, and encourage your child to choose fresh, healthy foods when she’s not with you. Your child may be eating more away from home at this age, which can mean her intake of sodium is going up.

      Instead of relying of packaged energy bars, which can be packed with added sodium and added sugars, put nuts and dried fruits in a baggie for a healthier on-the-go energy snack.

      Always pick a low-sodium option when available. This can be in pre-packaged foods at the grocery store, or even when you’re out to eat at a restaurant.

      Added Sugars

      Teach your child about moderation, that she can have treats her friends may be having every now and then, but not every day. Your child is likely very influenced by her peers at this age, and may want to follow their unhealthy eating habits.

      If you can, buy your child a re-usable water bottle to pack in her lunch and carry at school and to after-school activities. If she has water handy, she may be less likely to choose soda or sports drinks to quench her thirst.

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities she is doing in gym class or at recess. This will give you a better understanding of her overall level of physical activity.

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer, so it’s especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend.

      Encourage physical activity by giving your child toys that require movement, such as a kite, scooter, or jump rope.

      Explore lessons and organized sports for your 5th grader. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer or basketball. As she grows and her physical abilities progress, your child may express an interest in sports that even a year ago were too difficult for her. Expose her to as many options for physical activities and sports as possible. Community organizations like the local YMCA often offer affordable and kid-friendly yoga or Tae Kwon Do classes, for example.

      If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity more enjoyable for her. For example, inviting friends over to play outside might motivate her. Or suggesting that you exercise or do yoga together might spark her interest.

      One reason that children are less physically active than in previous generations is that fewer and fewer children walk or bike to school. If doing so is a safe alternative for your child, encourage the practice.

      It is around this age that some children start to demonstrate natural athletic ability and inclination, while others resist physical activity and start to think of themselves as “not sporty.” Even if she doesn’t seem to take to sports naturally, encourage your child to try out different activities and to find one that suits her. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let her sample a variety of sports to find her interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or archery, that might appeal to her. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” she learns to enjoy participating and pushing herself to improve.

      With some children starting puberty and beginning to grow more quickly and become stronger than their peers, physical differences among children at different stages of development become more pronounced at around this age. Take this into account when selecting a sport or activity for your child and encourage her to be patient if she feels she isn’t as strong or as fast as others. Assure her that her growth spurt is coming soon!

      Exercise and regular activity help children feel comfortable with their bodies, which becomes especially important with the advent of puberty and its accompanying changes. Make sure your child knows about the changes that will take place in her body when she goes through puberty—things like sweating more, developing stronger body odor, growing pubic hair, and having acne.

      The link between physical activity and improved academic performance is becoming increasingly clear. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, children perform cognitive tasks better after participating in a session of physical activity. The report also notes that “frequent bouts of physical activity throughout the day yield short-term benefits for mental and cognitive health.” Encourage your child to take play actively or exercise before doing her homework or studying and to take short active breaks from sedentary activities. For example, if she is getting bogged down on some especially homework difficult problems, suggest that she clear her head by walking the dog or kicking a ball outside.

      Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.

      Sleep

      Children are the most rested when they have a consistent sleep schedule. Experts caution that a change to your child’s normal sleep schedule on the weekends can actually make it harder for her to get out of bed when Monday rolls back around. To minimize this grogginess, allow your daughter to go to bed no more than an hour later than her normal weekday bedtime and sleep in no more than two hours past her usual wake time.

      Establish an electronic curfew at least 30 minutes prior to your child’s bedtime. Have her store all electronic devises, like video games and tablets, in places outside of her room and avoid putting a television or computer in her bedroom. This will ensure that she can prepare for sleep without electronic temptations. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by also turning off your own cell phone and other technological devices.

      Experts recommend sitting down with your child to create a sleep budget for the week. Map out your child’s priorities and activities, including time set aside for homework, meals, and extracurricular commitments. If you notice that her schedule starts to upend her bedtime and cuts into her restful evening of sleep, your child is most likely overscheduled. Encourage her to cut back on her number of activities and establish realistic expectations for the amount of sleep she should be getting each night.

      Caffeine is a stimulant that can prevent your child from falling asleep. Try not to serve soda, iced tea, or other caffeinated beverages any time after she gets home from school.

      Your child may ask to invite friends over for a sleepover throughout the school year.  Despite their name, sleepovers seldom include a lot of restful sleep. To help counteract the drowsiness that she may feel after a sleepover, experts recommend hosting these events on Friday evenings. This allows for two days of recovery and enables her to go to school refreshed on Monday. If that is not feasible, allow your daughter to sleep in past her normal wake time the next day and encourage her to go to bed earlier the next evening.

      It is important to send consistent messages about the importance of sleep. Try praising your child after a good night of sleep and avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bed time as a reward.

      Hygiene

      By the time they reach 5th grade many children are ready to take full responsibility for their personal hygiene. However, parents should remain involved and supervise bathing or showering to the extent that they feel is necessary. Especially if the body changes that accompany the onset of puberty have begun, it’s normal for your child to become more modest at around this age and to resist intrusion into her bathroom routine. It’s important to so strike a balance between respecting her privacy and making sure that her body is being cleaned effectively.

      The precise age at which children are ready to bathe or shower on their own varies from child to child. Often, children will indicate that they are ready for more privacy and would prefer to start washing themselves, but the transition is usually gradual and parents will still need to weigh in with advice or to check that everything has been properly cleansed. Some children, especially girls with long hair, might still require help with shampooing or rinsing out conditioner even after they have mastered washing the rest of their body.

      Most children do not need to wash their hair every day. How often your child’s hair needs to be washed will depend on a number of factors, including hair length, whether your child is taking part in sports, and whether the hair is curly or straight. 

      Although many children do not need to use deodorant before puberty, some may have a strong enough body odor that they should start applying deodorant sooner. Especially if your child is taking part in sports and sweats a lot she may need to start wearing deodorant regularly. Let your nose be your guide.

      Many girls start puberty by 10 or even earlier. Talk to your daughter about what to expect when she begins menstruating and teach her the importance of good menstrual hygiene. 

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups, just as she sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child’s oral hygiene with her dentist and ask about measures such as fluoride supplements and dental sealants, which protect your child’s teeth against cavities and decay.

      By the end of 5th grade your child will have lost all or most of her baby teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene habits is more important than ever. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning. 

      Your child should be brushing her teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Children should be flossing independently every day by around the age of 10, when their manual dexterity is sufficiently developed.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, and if left untreated can result in severe complications.

      If your child plays a contact sport, she should wear a mouth guard to protect against dental injury and concussion.

      If a child’s permanent tooth becomes dislodges due to an injury, place the tooth in a container of milk and seek dental advice as soon as possible. Permanent teeth can sometimes be re-implanted successfully.

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6th Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Try to talk to your child about the foods he’s eating when you’re not around. If he is into sports, highlight the importance of a healthy diet to his athletic performance. If he’s concerned about his complexion, highlight the impact of healthy foods and water to a clear complexion. When you explain the benefits of healthy eating as it applies to things he’s particularly concerned about, he may be more likely to take your advice.

      Encourage your child to get involved in meal planning and preparation. He will be able to help out even more in the kitchen at this age. For example, have him decide the ingredients in a salad and have it be his responsibility, from the grocery store to the dinner table.

      Help your child listen to his body during meal time by removing distractions. That means no texting, no TV, no computer or other gadgets at the table. This will help him identify when he's full and when he'd like more.

      Keep items in your kitchen healthy. If you buy chips or cookies, your child will eat them. While he's helping himself to snacks in the kitchen, making healthy choices is easy if it's the only choice he has. And if you can’t control what he eats out of the house, you can at least make sure that what he’s eating at home is healthy.

      Teach your child about the importance of a well-balanced meal. Have him demonstrate that knowledge by packing his own lunch, or planning a family dinner. Make sure he has half the plate filled with fruits and vegetables.

      Try to make sure your child has healthy snacks packed for after school. As his metabolism increases at this age, it’s likely he’ll need a snack after school. Having a healthy option on hand may help keep him from picking something unhealthy out of a vending machine or at a store.

      Vegetables

      Bring your child to a farmer’s market, or produce section of the supermarket, and have him pick out a vegetable he hasn’t tried before. You can find a recipe and prepare the new vegetable together.

      Try an at-home cooking competition. If your child has siblings, give each child the same vegetables and ask them to prepare them for the family to taste test. A friendly competition can get everyone thinking about new ways to eat vegetables.

      Add vegetables to soups. Even if you don’t make your own soup, adding some vegetables to low-sodium broth can increase your child’s vegetable intake.

      Have an at-home salad bar for dinner. Finely chop a variety of vegetables and let your child add his own toppings. Some children don’t love lettuce, but once it’s chopped with a lot of other vegetables, or even fruits and nuts, it can be more appealing.

      Fruits

      Keep fruits available and easily accessible for your child to help him choose fruits as a healthy snack. A fruit bowl on the counter with bananas, apples, and oranges is one good option. Or cut up fruits and place them in storage bags in the refrigerator for easy access.

      Try to incorporate a serving of fruit in your child’s breakfast. A whole piece of fruit or sliced fruit in yogurt or cereal are good options. Apples and bananas are good options for children who are on the go. They can be easily packed, or eaten in the car or on the bus on the way to school.

      Do a small science experiment with your child. Choose different fruits and have your child guess which ones will dehydrate faster. Use a dehydrator or your oven to dry the fruits and see if he was right.

      Grains

      To increase whole grains and experiment with new grains, cook brown rice with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). Add black beans, greens, and salsa for a healthy dinner bowl.

      Try to choose only whole grain cereals. If your child loves cereal for breakfast, providing only whole grain cereal is a good way to increase your child’s whole grain intake. Check the label to make sure the main ingredient is whole grains. Add chopped fruits or dried fruits for sweetness instead of buying sugary cereals.

      Try increasing your child’s oatmeal intake. Oatmeal is a great way to increase whole grain consumption for your child. Two-ingredient oatmeal cookies are a healthy treat he can make herself. Simply mix two mashed bananas with one cup of oatmeal, form into cookies and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

      Protein

      Try substituting fish for beef in your family’s tacos. Popular for years in California, the fish taco is a great way to increase your child’s healthy protein intake. Tilapia or mahi mahi, which are white and flakey fish, are good options for a taco. 

      Substitute Greek yogurt for other yogurt. Greek yogurt has more protein than traditional yogurts. It can also be more tart. Add a touch of honey or fresh fruit if your child is used to a sweeter yogurt. You can also add Greek yogurt to a smoothie to increase protein.

      Try recipes with quinoa or use it as a rice replacement. In addition to being a whole grain, quinoa is also high in protein and is a great way to add whole grains and more protein to your child’s diet.

      Dairy

      Pack low-fat string cheese for a healthy snack. It can be packed with lunch or grabbed as a quick snack for a way to increase dairy and protein consumption.

      Use yogurt-based dips for vegetables as a healthy alternative to higher-fat dressings or sour cream-based dips.

      Oils & Fats

      Try cooking with olive or canola oils instead of butter or margarine. It’s an easy substitution to make, and you’re swapping in healthier fats.

      Stay away from harmful trans fat. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list, this means there is trans fat in the product, even if the front of the label says “0 trans fats.”

      Sodium & Salt

      Try to make as many meals at home as possible. Your child may be eating more away from home at this age, which can mean his intake of sodium is going up. Encourage your child to choose fresh, healthy foods when he’s not with you.

      Instead of relying of packaged energy bars, which can be packed with added sodium and sugars, put nuts and dried fruits in a storage bag for a healthier on-the-go energy snack.

      Always try to pick a low-sodium option when available. This can be in pre-packaged foods at the grocery store, or even when you’re eating out at a restaurant.

      Added Sugars

      Teach your child about moderation. He is likely very influenced by his peers at this age, and may want to follow their unhealthy eating habits. Teach him that he can have treats his friends may be having every now and then, but not every day.

      If you can, buy your child a re-usable water bottle to pack in his lunch, carry at school, and take to after-school activities. If he has water handy, he may be less likely to choose soda or sports drinks to quench his thirst.

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities he is doing in gym class or at recess. This will give you a better understanding of his overall level of physical activity.

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer, so it’s especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend.

      Encourage physical activity by giving your child toys that require movement, such as a kite, scooter, or jump rope.

      Explore lessons and organized sports for your 6th grader. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer or little league. As he grows and his physical abilities progress, your child may express an interest in sports that even a year ago were too difficult for her. Expose his to as many options for physical activities and sports as possible. Community organizations like the local YMCA often offer affordable and kid-friendly yoga or Tae Kwon Do classes, for example.

      If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity more enjoyable for her. For example, inviting friends over to play outside might motivate her. Or suggesting that you exercise or do yoga together might spark his interest.

      One reason that children are less physically active than in previous generations is that fewer and fewer children walk or bike to school. If doing so is a safe alternative for your child, encourage the practice.

      It is around this age that some children start to demonstrate natural athletic ability and inclination, while others resist physical activity and start to think of themselves as “not sporty.” Even if he doesn’t seem to take to sports naturally, encourage your child to try out different activities and to find one that suits her. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let him sample a variety of sports to find his interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or archery, that might appeal to her. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” he learns to enjoy participating and pushing herself to improve.

      With some children starting puberty and beginning to grow more quickly and become stronger than their peers, physical differences among children at different stages of development become more pronounced at around this age. Take this into account when selecting a sport or activity for your child and encourage her to be patient if he feels he isn’t as strong or as fast as others. Assure her that her growth spurt is coming soon!

      Exercise and regular activity help children feel comfortable with their bodies, which becomes especially important with the advent of puberty and its accompanying changes. Make sure your child knows about the changes that will take place in her body when he goes through puberty—things like sweating more, developing stronger body odor, growing pubic hair, and having acne.

      The link between physical activity and improved academic performance is becoming increasingly clear. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, children perform cognitive tasks better after participating in a session of physical activity. The report also notes that “frequent bouts of physical activity throughout the day yield short-term benefits for mental and cognitive health.” Encourage your child to take play actively or exercise before doing her homework or studying and to take short active breaks from sedentary activities. For example, if he is getting bogged down on some especially homework difficult problems, suggest that he clear her head by walking the dog or kicking a ball outside.

      Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.

      Sleep

      Children are the most rested when they have a consistent sleep schedule. Experts caution that a change to his normal sleep schedule on the weekends can actually make it harder for him to get out of bed when Monday rolls back around. To minimize this grogginess, allow your son to go to bed no more than an hour later than his normal weekday bedtime and sleep in no more than two hours past his usual wake time. 

      Establish an electronic curfew at least 30 minutes prior to your child’s bedtime. Have him store all electronic devices, like video games and tablets, in places outside of his room and avoid putting a television or computer in his bedroom. This will ensure that he can prepare for sleep without electronic temptations. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by also turning off your own cell phone and other technological devices.

      Experts recommend sitting down with your child to create a sleep budget for the week. Map out your child’s priorities and activities, including time set aside for homework, meals, and extracurricular commitments. If you notice that his schedule starts to upend his bedtime and cuts into his restful evening of sleep, your child is most likely overscheduled. Encourage him to cut back on his number of activities and establish realistic expectations for the amount of sleep he should be getting each night. 

      Caffeine is a stimulant that can prevent your child from falling asleep. Try not to serve soda, iced tea, or other caffeinated beverages any time after he gets home from school.

      Your child may ask to invite friends over for a sleepover throughout the school year. Despite their name, sleepovers seldom include a lot of restful sleep. To help counteract the drowsiness that he may feel after a sleepover, experts recommend hosting these events on Friday evenings. This allows for two days of recovery and enables him to go to school refreshed on Monday. If that is not feasible, allow your son to sleep in past his normal wake time the next day and encourage him to go to bed earlier the next evening.  

      It is important to send consistent messages about the importance of sleep. Try praising your child after a good night of sleep and avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bed time as a reward.

      Hygiene

      By the time they reach 6th grade many children are ready to take full responsibility for their personal hygiene. However, parents should remain involved and supervise bathing or showering to the extent that they feel is necessary. Especially if the body changes that accompany the onset of puberty have begun, it’s normal for your child to become more modest at around this age and to resist intrusion into her bathroom routine. It’s important to so strike a balance between respecting her privacy and making sure that her body is being cleaned effectively.

      The precise age at which children are ready to bathe or shower on their own varies from child to child. Often, children will indicate that they are ready for more privacy and would prefer to start washing themselves, but the transition is usually gradual and parents will still need to weigh in with advice or to check that everything has been properly cleansed. Some children, especially girls with long hair, might still require help with shampooing or rinsing out conditioner even after they have mastered washing the rest of their body.

      Most children do not need to wash their hair every day. How often your child’s hair needs to be washed will depend on a number of factors, including hair length, whether your child is taking part in sports, and whether the hair is curly or straight.

      Although many children do not need to use deodorant before puberty, some may have a strong enough body odor that they should start applying deodorant sooner. Especially if your child is taking part in sports and sweats a lot he may need to start wearing deodorant regularly. Let your nose be your guide.

      Many girls start puberty by 10 or even earlier. Talk to your daughter about what to expect when she begins menstruating and teach her the importance of good menstrual hygiene.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups, just as he sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child’s oral hygiene with her dentist and ask about measures such as fluoride supplements and dental sealants, which protect your child’s teeth against cavities and decay.

      By the end of 6th grade your child will have lost all or most of her baby teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene habits is more important than ever. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning.

      Your child should be brushing her teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Children should be flossing independently every day by around the age of 10, when their manual dexterity is sufficiently developed.

      If a child’s permanent tooth becomes dislodges due to an injury, place the tooth in a container of milk and seek dental advice as soon as possible. Permanent teeth can sometimes be re-implanted successfully.

      If your child plays a contact sport, he should wear a mouth guard to protect against dental injury and concussion.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, and if left untreated can result in severe complications.

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7th Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Try to teach your child about the importance of a well-balanced meal. Have her demonstrate that knowledge by packing her own lunch, or occasionally planning family dinners. Make sure she has half the plate filled with fruits and vegetables.

      Try to talk to your child about the food she’s eating when you’re not around. If she is into sports, highlight the importance of a healthy diet to her athletic performance. If she’s concerned about her complexion, highlight the impact of healthy foods and water to a clear complexion. When you explain the benefits of healthy eating as it applies to things she’s particularly concerned about, she may be more likely to take your advice.

      Keep items in your kitchen healthy. If you buy chips or cookies, your child will eat them. When she's helping herself to snacks in the kitchen, making healthy choices is easy if it's the only choice she has. And if you can’t control what she eats out of the house, you can at least make sure what she’s eating at home is healthy.

      Let your child prepare some meals on her own. Try letting your tween be in charge of dinner once a month so that she can demonstrate her cooking skills. Get her involved in meal planning, have her decide on a recipe, and prepare it for the family. She may try something new the family hasn’t tried before, which can be a good learning experience for the entire family while also boosting her self-esteem and competence in the kitchen.

      Make time for healthy family meals. It allows you to model healthy eating and is a good time to catch up with your active child.

      Keep meal time free of technological distractions. This will encourage your child to listen to her body and realize when she’s full and when she’d like more.

      Keep an eye out for mindless snacking while doing homework, talking on the phone, or watching television. It’s easy for a tween to not pay attention to snacks while multitasking. If your child has a problem with this, you can make snacking permitted only in the kitchen.

      Vegetables

      Try varying your preparation for vegetables to keep from getting burnt out on one type. If you normally steam or sauté vegetables, try grilling or even roasting them until they’re golden and crispy. Vegetables are easy to roast and become sweeter when roasted. This is a great way to try to get your child to eat Brussels sprouts.

      Try an at-home cooking competition. If your child has siblings, give each child the same vegetables and ask them to prepare them for the family to taste test. A friendly competition can get everyone thinking about new ways to eat vegetables.

      Switch up your child’s sandwich (or have her make her own) by adding different vegetables such as avocado, roasted red peppers, or hummus. Incorporating these vegetables not only increases her vegetable intake, but also adds a new flavor to the standard sandwich.

      Try having a “veggie night” once a week. Serve veggie dogs or veggie burgers, hummus with cut vegetables like broccoli and cucumbers, and baked sweet potato fries. Committing to one night a week will challenge both you and your child to try vegetables in different ways and see them as more than just a side dish.

      Try hummus as a snack. You can have your child make homemade hummus or choose from the varieties available at the store. Chickpeas, (which hummus is made from), are high in protein, fiber, and iron, which make them a great healthy choice for your growing tween.

      Fruits

      Have your child prepare her own smoothies for breakfast. It gives her the ability to make healthy choices while also the independence of making breakfast herself. Ingredients like bananas, frozen berries, low-fat Greek yogurt, and spinach are all good options to have on hand.

      Have fruits on hand that are easy to pack, like oranges, apples, and bananas for your on-the-go tween. These fruits can easily be tucked into a backpack and eaten on the go.

      Try adding fruits to salads. If your child enjoys salads, try adding apples, grapes, or dried fruits to increase fruit intake while adding a different flavor to the salad.

      Grains

      Add new grains to meals to increase whole grains. Try to cook brown rice with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and add black beans, greens, and salsa for a healthy dinner bowl.

      Try incorporating oats into breakfast for more whole grains. For families who are busy in the mornings, try making overnight oats. Combine ½ cup of rolled oats, ½ cup milk, fruit, and nuts in a jar. Place it in the refrigerator overnight and the next morning breakfast is ready to go. You could also make a large batch of oatmeal the night before and warm it up in the morning.

      Always read the label on grain products and teach your tween how to do so also. The first ingredient should be whole grains.

      Protein

      Make up your own trail mix by adding nuts like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios with dried fruits for on-the-go healthy snacks.

      Swap out beef with poultry or fish in some of your favorite recipes to increase your child’s lean-meat consumption. Ground turkey is a good substitute in hamburgers and casseroles. In tacos, try using a white flaky fish like tilapia, or use a combination of black beans and low-fat refried beans for a non-meat taco.

      Edamame, or immature soybeans, in their shell can be a fun and healthy snack or appetizer and a good way to increase protein and vegetable intake.

      Dairy

      Use non or low-fat milk when preparing cereal, oatmeal, or soup instead of water. This is an easy way to increase your child’s dairy intake without pouring her a glass of milk.

      Add yogurt or low-fat milk to a smoothie. This is an easy way to add dairy to snacks or breakfast.

      Try milk substitutes for children with lactose intolerance. Fortified almond milk, soy milk, or rice milk can be good options to make sure she gets calcium and vitamin D.

      Oils & Fats

      Stay away from harmful trans fats. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list, this means there is trans fat in the product, even if the front of the label says “0 trans fats.”

      Try cooking with olive or canola oils instead of butter or margarine. It’s an easy substitution to make, and you’re swapping in healthier fats.

      Add ground flax meal to breads, pancakes, or waffles. You can even sprinkle ground flax onto cereals for added healthy fats.

      Try to make sure your child gets two servings of fish each week. Certain fish, like salmon and sardines, contain important healthy fatty acids.

      Sodium & Salt

      Try to make as many meals at home as possible. Your child may be eating more away from home at this age, which can mean her intake of sodium is going up. Encourage your child to choose fresh, healthy foods when she’s not with you.

      Always check the labels when buying packaged foods. Products like frozen dinners and snack foods can be high in sodium. Choosing low-sodium over high-sodium options is an easy way to decrease your child’s sodium intake. Teach your tween to look for snack products with less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.

      Don’t leave a salt shaker on the table. If you’d like to have added flavor available, try making your own herb mix to keep on the table. Garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano or thyme are good options to mix together to add flavor without adding sodium.

      Added Sugars

      Teach your child about moderation.  It may be ok for her to have treats at birthday parties or other events, but not every day.

      If you can, buy your child a re-usable water bottle to pack in her lunch, carry at school, and take to after-school activities. If she has water handy, she may be less likely to choose soda or sports drinks to quench her thirst.

      Try to let your child add more natural sweetness to her cereals, yogurts, and other foods. Fruits, a small amount of honey, or cinnamon can be good ways to naturally sweeten foods. But even with natural sugars, moderation is key.

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities she is doing in gym class or at recess. This will give you a better understanding of her overall level of physical activity. According to a recent Institute of Medicine report, even the best physical education curriculum fails to provide the necessary 60 minutes of recommended activity a day.

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer, so it’s especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend.

      Explore lessons and organized sports for your 7th grader. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer or little league. As she grows and her physical abilities progress, your child may express an interest in sports that even a year ago were too difficult for her. Expose her to as many options for physical activities and sports as possible. Community organizations like the local YMCA often offer affordable and kid-friendly yoga or Tae Kwon Do classes, for example.

      If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity more enjoyable for her. For example, inviting friends over to play outside might motivate her. Or suggesting that you exercise or do yoga together might spark her interest.

      One reason that children are less physically active than in previous generations is that fewer and fewer children walk or bike to school. If doing so is a safe alternative for your child, encourage the practice.

      Even if she doesn’t seem to take to sports naturally, encourage your child to try out different activities and to find one that suits her. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let her sample a variety of sports to find her interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or archery, that might appeal to her. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” she learns to enjoy participating and pushing herself to improve.

      The link between physical activity and improved academic performance is becoming increasingly clear. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, children perform cognitive tasks better after participating in a session of physical activity. The report also notes that “frequent bouts of physical activity throughout the day yield short-term benefits for mental and cognitive health.” Encourage your child to take play actively or exercise before doing her homework or studying and to take short active breaks from sedentary activities. For example, if she is getting bogged down on some especially homework difficult problems, suggest that she clear her head by walking the dog or kicking a ball outside.

      Exercise and regular activity help children feel comfortable with their bodies, which becomes especially important with the advent of puberty and its accompanying changes. Make sure your child knows about the changes that will take place in her body when she goes through puberty—things like sweating more, developing stronger body odor, growing pubic hair, and having acne.

      Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.

      Sleep

      See if your child is budgeting enough time for sleep during the week by having her record the time she goes to bed and wakes up every day in a sleep journal. Use the information to map out her typical weekly schedule, incorporating time for meals, extracurricular activities and homework. If her bedtime is consistently getting pushed back, she is probably over scheduled. Encourage your daughter to cut back on the number of her commitments and establish realistic expectations for the amount of sleep she should be getting each evening.

      Since most teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each evening, a 20-minute power nap could be helpful. However, experts caution that adolescents should not be sleeping after 4 PM because it will disrupt an evening of restful sleep. If your child chooses to nap, have her set an alarm to ensure that she wakes up after 20 minutes.

      Help your child maintain a regular study schedule so that she isn’t cramming the night before a major test. Studying for at least 10 to 15 minutes every night will ensure that she can get plenty of rest prior to an important exam.

      Does your child have a lot of homework?  Encourage her to complete the homework that requires a computer earlier in the evening. This way she avoids exposure to the stimulating lights of the computer during the time right before bed.

      Though it is recommend that children keep a consistent sleep schedule throughout the week, for some families this is unrealistic. Encourage your child to get to bed within an hour of her normal bedtime and wake up no later than two hours after her normal wake time. By establishing clear expectations for your child on the weekends, you will make the rest of her week easier by avoiding an uneven sleep schedule.

      Check your child’s bedroom to see if it is a dark, calm, and quiet environment. When you turn off the lights, there should be no illumination. Remove the television, computer, and other electronics from the bedroom since they emit a blue light that disrupts your child’s sleep cycle.

      Establish an electronic curfew for the entire family at least 30 minutes prior to your child going to bed. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by also turning off your cell phone and other technological devices.

      Caffeine can affect the quality of your child’s sleep. Encourage her to cut down on her consumption by reducing the number of energy drinks, sweetened teas, and sodas in the home, and limit her consumption, particularly in the hours after school.

      Hygiene

      By the time they reach 7th grade children should be able to take full responsibility for their personal hygiene. Talk to your child about the body changes that accompany puberty, such as menstruation, an increase in body odor, the growth of pubic hair, and the development of acne. 

      Make sure that your adolescent understands that her personal hygiene routine will have to be more rigorous than it was when she was younger. Showering or bathing daily with attention to the underarms, groin, backside, and feet is more important than ever.

      Discuss with your adolescent whether she should be washing her hair every day. As her hair becomes greasier with the onset of puberty, she may need to do so.

      Talk to your daughter about good menstrual hygiene and make sure she all the supplies she needs. Explain the difference between sanitary pads and tampons, and make sure she understands that menstruation does not need to limit her ability to be physically active.

      Talk to your son or daughter about shaving when you start to see facial hair on him or hair on her legs, and give them the necessary equipment to start doing so. 

      Body image issues increase sharply during adolescence. Use your child’s physical development to guide you through what subjects you should be addressing. If acne is a persistent problem, for example, consider seeking advice from a dermatologist. 

      Make sure that the information you’re passing on to your child is current. Some of the hygiene advice you may have been given when you were younger, about things such as shaving or menstrual hygiene, may no longer apply.

      Learning to handle their changing hygiene needs can be a challenge for some adolescents. Don’t be too hard on your 7th grader if she is struggling or resistant. Make sure she understands how important hygiene is and that it is her responsibility alone to take care of her body and keep it clean.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups, just as she sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child’s oral hygiene with her dentist and ask about measures such as fluoride supplements and dental sealants, which protect your child’s teeth against cavities and decay.

      By the end of 7th grade your child will have lost all or most of her baby teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene habits is more important than ever. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning. 

      Your child should be brushing her teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Your child should be flossing every day.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, and if left untreated can result in severe complications.

      If your child plays a contact sport, she should wear a mouth guard to protect against dental injury and concussion.

      If a child’s permanent tooth becomes dislodges due to an injury, place the tooth in a container of milk and seek dental advice as soon as possible. Permanent teeth can sometimes be re-implanted successfully.

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8th Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Teach your child about the importance of a well-balanced meal. Have him demonstrate that knowledge by packing his own lunch, or occasionally planning family dinners. Make sure he has half the plate filled with fruits and vegetables.

      Talk to your child about the food he eats when you’re not around. If he is into sports, highlight the importance of a healthy diet to his athletic performance. If he’s concerned about his complexion, highlight the impact of healthy foods and water to a clear complexion. When you explain the benefits of healthy eating as it applies to things he’s particularly concerned about, he may be more likely to take your advice.

      Keep healthy food in your kitchen. If you buy chips or cookies, your child will eat them. While he's helping himself to snacks in the kitchen, making a healthy choice is easy if it's the only choice available. And if you can’t control what he eats out of the house, you can at least make sure what he’s eating at home is healthy.

      Connecticut pediatric nutritionist Dr. Deb Kennedy recommends letting your teen be in charge of dinner once a month so that he can demonstrate his cooking skills. Get him involved in meal planning, have him decide on a recipe, and prepare it for the family. He may try something new the family hasn’t tried before, which can be a good learning experience for the entire family while boosting his self-esteem and competence in the kitchen. 

      Make time for healthy family meals. It allows you to model healthy eating and is a good time to catch up with your active child. Keep meal time free of technological distractions to encourage your child to listen to his body and realize when he’s full and when he’d like more.

      Keep an eye out for mindless snacking. This can happen while your teen is doing homework, talking on the phone, or watching television. It’s easy for a teen to eat snacks while multitasking. In order to avoid mindless snacking, you can permit snacking and meals only in the kitchen.

      Vegetables

      Try varying your preparation for vegetables. This can help to keep your teen from getting bored with one type of vegetable. If you normally steam or sauté vegetables, try grilling or even roasting them until they’re golden and crispy. Vegetables are easy to roast and become sweeter that way. Brussels sprouts, for example, become less bitter when roasted.

      Try an at-home cooking competition. If your teen has siblings, give each child the same vegetables and ask them to prepare them for the family to taste test. A friendly competition can inspire creative new ways to eat vegetables.

      Switch up your child’s sandwich (or have him make his own) by adding different vegetables like roasted red peppers, or hummus. Incorporating these vegetables not only increases his vegetable intake, but also adds a new flavor to the standard sandwich.

      Try having a “veggie night” once a week. Serve veggie dogs or veggie burgers, hummus with cut vegetables like carrots and cucumbers, and baked sweet potato fries. Committing to one night a week will challenge both you and your child to try vegetables in different ways and to see them as more than just a side dish.

      Try to make sure your teen eats vegetables at home. Try serving two different kinds with dinner. It’s unlikely he’ll be eating a lot of vegetables when you’re not around, so try to make up for that difference when you can.

      Fruits

      Have your child prepare his own smoothies for breakfast. It gives him the ability to make healthy choices while also the independence of making breakfast himself. Ingredients like bananas, frozen berries, low-fat Greek yogurt, and spinach are all good options to have on hand.

      Try to display fruits that are easy to pack, like oranges, apples, and bananas. For teens who are busy and on the go, these can be easily tucked into a backpack and available for a healthy snack.

      Try adding apples, grapes, or dried fruits to salads to increase fruit intake while adding a different flavor to the salad.

      Grains

      Try cooking with new grains. Add brown rice with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) for more whole grains. Add black beans, greens, and salsa for a healthy dinner bowl.

      Add more oats to your teen’s diet for more whole grains. For families who are busy in the mornings try making overnight oats. Combine ½ cup of rolled oats, ½ cup milk, fruit, and nuts in a jar. Place it in the refrigerator overnight and the next morning breakfast is ready to go. You could also make a large batch of oatmeal the night before and warm it up in the morning.

      Always read labels on grain products and teach your teen how to as well. The first ingredient should be whole grains. Try to look for products with 10 or fewer grams of sugar per serving and 3 or more grams of fiber per serving for the healthiest versions.

      Protein

      A handful of nuts and fruit make a great snack. Make up your own trail mix by adding nuts like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios with dried fruits for on-the-go healthy snacks.

      Swap out beef for poultry or fish in some of your favorite recipes to increase your child’s lean-meat consumption. Ground turkey is a good substitute in hamburgers and casseroles. In tacos, try using a white flaky fish like tilapia, or use a combination of black beans and low-fat refried beans for a non-meat taco.

      Edamame, or immature soybeans, in their shell can be a fun and healthy snack or appetizer and a good way to increase protein and vegetable intake.

      Dairy

      When preparing cereal, oatmeal, or soup, use low-fat milk instead of water. This is an easy way to increase your child’s dairy intake without pouring him a glass of milk.

      Adding yogurt or low-fat milk to a smoothie is a good way to add dairy to breakfast if he is not eating cereal.

      If your child is lactose intolerance or doesn’t drink milk, substitutions like fortified almond milk, soy milk, or rice milk can be a good way to make sure he gets calcium and vitamin D. When selecting nut milks, try to get the low-sugar or unsweetened varieties to keep added sugars down.

      Try to serve milk with dinner and other meals. Some teens may replace milk for soda, and if this is the case with your teen, don’t keep soda in the house and make sure to serve milk with meals.

      Oils & Fats

      Stay away from harmful trans fats. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil” on the ingredient list, it means there is trans fat in the product, even if the front of the label says “0 trans fats.”

      Try cooking with vegetable oils instead of butter or margarine. It’s an easy substitution to make, and you’re swapping in healthier fats.

      Switch out mayonnaise or creamy condiments for avocado on sandwiches or wraps for a healthy fat alternative.

      Try to make sure your child gets two servings of fish each week. Certain fish, like salmon and trout, contain important healthy fatty acids.

      Sodium & Salt

      Try to make as many meals at home as possible, and speak to your child about choosing fresh, healthy foods when he’s not with you. Your child may be eating more meals and snacks away from home at this age, which can mean his intake of sodium is likely to go up.

      Try to always check labels when buying packaged foods. Sodium can be unexpectedly high in products like bread and cereals. Choosing low-sodium options over regular is an easy way to decrease your child’s sodium intake.

      Don’t leave a salt shaker on the table. If you’d like to have added flavor available, try making your own herb mix to keep on the table. Garlic powder, onion powder and oregano or thyme are good options to mix together to add flavor without adding sodium.

      Connecticut pediatric nutritionist Dr. Deb Kennedy suggests teaching your teen to look for snack products with 140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving.

      Added Sugars

      Teach your child about moderation.  Your child is likely very influenced by his peers at this age, and may want to follow their unhealthy eating habits. He can have treats his friends may be having every now and then, but not every day.

      If you can, buy your child a re-usable water bottle to pack in his lunch, carry at school, and take to after-school activities. If he has water handy, he may be less likely to choose soda or sports drinks to quench his thirst.

      Let your child add natural sweetness to his cereals, yogurts and other foods by offering a small amount of honey, cinnamon, or fruit. This may satisfy his sweet craving in a more natural way. Even with natural sugars, moderation is key.

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, and by 8th grade physical fitness is usually no longer a daily part of the school curriculum. According to a recent Institute of Medicine report on physical activity among young people, even the best physical education curriculum fails to provide the necessary 60 minutes of recommended activity a day. Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities he is doing in gym class. This will give you a better understanding of his overall level of physical activity.

      It’s especially important for parents to step in and fill the void by encouraging physical activity after school and on weekends. One of the most effective ways for parents to do this is by modeling good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend. Finding a physical activity that you and your child can do together, such as swimming at the local YMCA, is a great way for both of you to exercise and for you to spend quality time together.

      If everyone in the family is trying to be more active, set physical activity goals for the entire family. Set specific and achievable goals, like always taking the stairs or walking around the block every day after dinner, and check in each week to see who is doing best.

      Research has shown that even relatively small variations in the amount of physical activity young people get can make the difference between a healthy weight and being overweight. If your child is not physically active enough, encourage him to start by changing his behavior gradually. Even setting aside some time each day for jumping rope, kicking a ball in the yard, or skateboarding around the block will soon make a difference that he will be able to see and feel.

      If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity appeal more to him. If he enjoys competition, suggest competitive team sports that might appeal to him. If he is more solitary, running or swimming might have more appeal. If he is shy about exercising with other children, home exercise videos could help him be more active.

      One reason that children are less physically active than in previous generations is that fewer and fewer children walk or bike to school. If doing so is a safe alternative for your child, encourage the practice.

      Explore lessons and organized sports for your 8th grader. These might include gymnastics classes or soccer or Little League. As he grows and his physical abilities progress, your child may express an interest in sports that even a year ago were not of interest to him. Expose him to as many options for physical activities and sports as possible. Community organizations like the local YMCA often offer affordable and kid-friendly yoga or Tae Kwon Do classes, for example.

      Encourage your child to try out different sports and activities and to find one that suits him. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let him sample a variety of sports to find his interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or frisbee, that might appeal to him. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” he learns to enjoy participating and pushing himself to improve.

      Exercise and regular activity help children feel comfortable with their bodies, which becomes especially important during puberty. Make sure your child knows about the changes that will take place in his body when he goes through puberty—things like sweating more, developing stronger body odor, growing pubic hair, and having acne.

      The link between physical activity and improved academic performance is becoming increasingly clear. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine on physical activity in schools, children perform cognitive tasks better after participating in a session of physical activity. The report also notes that “frequent bouts of physical activity throughout the day yield short-term benefits for mental and cognitive health.” Encourage your child to take play actively or exercise before doing his homework or studying and to take short active breaks from sedentary activities. For example, if he is getting bogged down on some especially homework difficult problems, suggest that he clear his head by walking the dog or kicking a ball outside.

      Limit the amount of time your child is sedentary in front of the television or computer monitor. Your child should remain inactive for no more than an hour at a time.

      In addition to being aware of whether your child is not getting enough exercise, pay attention if he appears to be exercising too much. It is around this time that many children become susceptible to pressure to lose weight and develop a certain body type through exercise and diet. Children who participate in certain sports or activities that emphasize weight targets or body shape, such as wresting or ballet, can be especially vulnerable to this kind of pressure.

      Sleep

      Experts recommend that you encourage your child to prioritize sleep, even as his schedule becomes busier with additional homework and extracurricular activities. One way to ensure that sleep is still a priority for your child is by keeping a sleep journal. Have your teen record the time he goes to bed and wakes up every day. Use the information to map out his typical weekly schedule, incorporating time for meals, extracurricular activities, and homework. If his bedtime is constantly getting pushed back, he is probably overscheduled. Encourage your son to cut back on his number of commitments and to establish realistic expectations for the amount of sleep he should be getting each evening.

      Since most teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each evening, a 20-minute power nap could be helpful. However, experts caution that adolescents should not be sleeping after 4 PM because it will disrupt their evening of restful sleep. If your child chooses to nap, have him set an alarm to ensure that he wakes up after 20 minutes.

      Help your child maintain a regular study schedule so that he isn’t cramming the night before a major test. Studying for 20 to 30 minutes every night will ensure that he can get plenty of rest prior to an important exam.

      Does your child have a lot of homework? Encourage him to complete the homework that requires a computer earlier in the evening. This way he avoids exposure to the stimulating lights of the computer during the time right before bed.

      Though it is recommended that children keep a consistent sleep schedule throughout the week, for some families this is unrealistic. Encourage your child to get to bed within an hour of his normal bedtime and wake up no later than two hours after his normal wake time. By establishing clear expectations for your child on the weekends, you will make the rest of his week easier by avoiding an uneven sleep schedule.

      Check your child’s bedroom to see if it is a dark, calm, and quiet environment. When you turn off the lights, there should be no illumination. Remove the television, computer and other electronics from his room since they emit a blue light that disrupts your child’s sleep cycle.

      Establish an electronic curfew for the entire family at least 30 minutes prior to your child going to bed. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by also turning off your cell phone and other technological devices.

      Caffeine can affect the quality of your child’s sleep. Encourage him to cut down on his consumption by reducing the number of energy drinks, sweetened teas, and sodas in the home and limit his consumption, particularly in the hours after school.

      Hygiene

      Talk to your child about the body changes that accompany puberty, such as menstruation, an increase in body odor, the growth of pubic hair, and the development of acne. Encourage your child to come to you with questions about health and hygiene or to seek advice from a physician or other reputable sources. 

      Make sure that your adolescent understands that his personal hygiene routine will have to be more rigorous than it was when he was younger. Showering or bathing daily with attention to the underarms, groin, backside, and feet is more important than ever.

      Discuss with your adolescent whether she should be washing her hair every day. As her hair becomes greasier with the onset of puberty, she may need to do so.

      Talk to your daughter about good menstrual hygiene and make sure she all the supplies she needs. Explain the difference between sanitary pads and tampons, and make sure she understands that menstruation does not need to limit her ability to be physically active.

      Talk to your son or daughter about shaving when you start to see facial hair on him or hair on her legs, and give them the necessary equipment to start doing so. 

      Body image issues increase sharply during adolescence. Use your child’s physical development to guide you through what subjects you should be addressing. If acne is a persistent problem, for example, consider seeking advice from a dermatologist. 

      Make sure that the information you’re passing on to your child is current. Some of the hygiene advice you may have been given when you were younger, about things such as shaving or menstrual hygiene, may no longer apply. 

      Learning to handle their changing hygiene needs can be a challenge for some adolescents. Don’t be too hard on your 8th grader if he is struggling or resistant. Make sure he understands how important hygiene is and that it is his responsibility to take care of his body and keep it clean.

      Make sure that your adolescent has all the necessary supplies to insure that he is well-groomed and clean. Help him shop for razors, deodorant, and other necessary toiletries.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular annual checkups, just as he sees a pediatrician regularly. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends check-ups every six months, but also advises consulting with your child’s dentist about how often to visit based on your child’s oral health. Ask the dentist about measures such as fluoride supplements and dental sealants, which protect against cavities and decay.

      Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning. 

      Your child should be brushing his teeth for at least two minutes at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Your child should be flossing every day.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, and if left untreated can result in severe complications.

      If your child plays a contact sport, he should wear a mouth guard to protect against dental injury and concussion.

      If a child’s permanent tooth becomes dislodged due to an injury, place the tooth in a container of milk and seek dental advice as soon as possible. Permanent teeth can sometimes be re-implanted successfully.

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9th Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Don’t stock your cupboards with unhealthy food. You are less likely to be able to control what your teenager eats when you're not around, but if the only foods in the house are healthy, your teen is more likely to make healthy choices at home.

      Schedule meals and sit down together as a family. Regularly preparing healthy foods and enjoying them together is a way to demonstrate to your teen the importance of a healthy diet.

      Make your plates half fruits and vegetables. Your teenager's portions should be about the same as yours. Focus on all of your plates and make sure half the plate is full of fruits and vegetables, the rest with whole grains and lean protein. Try plating the food prior to sitting down—leaving the leftovers off the table can help control everyone's portions.

      Model healthy behavior while eating out with your teenager. Opt for lower-calorie options like vegetables or chicken instead of beef, stick to water instead of soda, and skip dessert. You may not be with your teen when she eats out with friends, but showing her how to make better choices can influence her decisions when you're not around.

      Discuss portion sizes rather than restrictions. If you emphasize dieting or restriction, it could encourage your child to not eat enough, just as modeling or encouraging excessive eating can lead to over indulgence. Teaching her about portion sizes allows her to make educated decisions even when she’s not with you.

      Have your teen cook one healthy meal for the family each week. Let her decide the menu and prepare and cook the meal all on her own. This will improve her cooking skills as well as her confidence.

      Try talking to your teen about the immediate benefits of a healthy diet rather than stressing the long term risks of high blood pressure or diabetes. Emphasize the positive benefits of a healthy diet,  – like healthier-looking skin, more energy, and strong muscles.

      Missouri pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert suggests having your teen download a food logging app to her phone if she shows interest in tracking what she eats. You can download the same app and compare who made the best choices throughout the day.

      Vegetables

      Plan a salad bar dinner with your teen and have her pick the theme. For example, Mexican night would include bean and grilled chicken salads, Greek night would have cucumbers, olives, and chickpea salads, and Asian night could feature tofu, cabbage, and even mandarin oranges. Having many veggie options to add to the salads makes sure you all get to create the salad you like while getting your vegetable servings in.

      Keep vegetables accessible. Cut raw vegetables like carrots, celery, and cauliflower and keep them ready-to-eat in the fridge. They’ll go great with a dip like hummus or yogurt dip for an after-school snack.

      For teens who still don’t like eating vegetables, try making a vegetable pilaf part of dinner. Chop asparagus, broccoli, and mushrooms and add them to brown rice. If you’re short on time, frozen vegetable medleys can be a good mixture with rice as well.

      Make sure you continue to eat your vegetables. Missouri pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert reminds parents that teens are still influenced by Mom and Dad, whether they admit it or not, so it’s important to model healthy behavior.

      Fruits

      Add a serving of fruit to breakfast. Whether you’re making your teen’s breakfast, packing it the night before, or she’s making it herself, adding berries to cereal, or offering an apple or banana on the go is a good way to increase fruit intake. A homemade smoothie is another way to get fruit into breakfast.

      Add fruits to savory meals for a new way for your teen to eat her favorite fruits. For example, add sliced apples or pears to a panini or salad or add pineapple to tacos or salsa.

      Keep a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter. Keeping fruits in easy-to-grab spots for your teen will encourage her to eat them. Since fruit is portable, grabbing an orange on the way out the door is much better than grabbing a cookie.

      Grains

      Encourage your teen to choose popcorn as a snack. A natural whole grain, popcorn made without butter and little to no salt is a healthy way to increase whole grain consumption.

      Teach your teen to read the nutrition labels to look for whole grains. Whole grains should be the first ingredient on the list, regardless of whether the front of the package says “multigrain” or “all-natural.” A food with at least 3-5 grams of fiber per serving is a high fiber food.

      Make mini-pizza with whole grain English muffins. Top with low-sodium tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, and mushrooms. It’s an easy meal your teen could even make for herself.

      Choose darker colored breads, rice, and pastas over lighter colored items. Whole grain items will usually be darker in color.

      Protein

      Teach your teen healthier protein choices. When eating out, encourage her to choose grilled chicken rather than fried, and order a smaller cut of meat, or take half of it to go. Incorporate beans, fish, and nuts into meals, and swap ground lean turkey for ground beef in some recipes.

      Make eggs or egg whites a part of breakfast. Whether you scramble them in an omelet, or hard-boil them to eat on-the-go, eggs are a great way to get lean protein into your teen’s morning.

      Keep unsalted nuts or peanut butter on hand for an after-school snack for your teen. Nuts are a great way to increase lean protein, and when paired with fruit they’re a well-balanced snack.

      Dairy

      Make a healthier dip for vegetables with low-fat yogurt. Use low-fat plain or Greek yogurt and add spices like garlic powder, pepper, dried dill, and dried parsley. Add a small amount of honey and cinnamon to yogurt for a dip for fruits.

      Add low-fat milk or low-sugar soy milk to frozen fruits and spinach for a healthy smoothie. Smoothies are a great option for a quick breakfast or even an afternoon snack or dessert.

      Serve low-fat milk or soy milk with family dinner. It may be hard to keep your teen drinking milk, but if it’s a regular part of the dinner routine she will be more likely to continue drinking it.

      Oils & Fats

      Try to make sure you and your teen eat fatty fish like salmon or trout twice a week. These fish have healthy fats and essential nutrients.

      Add healthy fats from avocado to a sandwich or wrap instead of mayonnaise or creamy condiments.

      Sodium & Salt

      Ask for low-sodium options when you and your teen eat out. Many restaurants will prepare a low-sodium meal or offer suggestions on low-sodium dishes if you ask the waiter.

      Keep the salt shaker off the table at dinner. Your teen is less likely to reach for it when it’s not in front of her. Use spices like garlic, onion powder, or pepper to give food additional flavor without adding salt.

      Teach your teen to spot high-sodium content on a nutrition label. Foods with more than 400 milligrams of sodium per serving are considered high. She should be looking for foods with less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.

      Added Sugars

      Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator with a couple slices of lemon or cucumber. The flavor added to the water makes it more attractive to your teen than the water straight from the tap or sugar-sweetened beverages.

      Instead of buying sugar-sweetened cereals, have your teen add sweetness to her cereal with sliced or dried fruit. This way she can control the amount of sweetness without adding sugars.

      Have your teen pack an orange when going to sports practice rather than a sports drink. Eating an orange during or immediately after practice can replace electrolytes lost to sweat.

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, and by 9th grade physical fitness is usually no longer a daily part of the school curriculum. Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities she is doing in gym class. This will give you a better understanding of her overall level of physical activity. According to a recent Institute of Medicine report on physical activity among young people, even the best physical education curriculum fails to provide the necessary 60 minutes of recommended activity a day.

      It’s especially important for parents to step in and fill the void by encouraging physical activity after school and on weekends. One of the most effective ways for parents to do this is by modeling good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend. Finding a physical activity that you and your child can do together, such as swimming at the local YMCA, is a great way for both of you to exercise and for you to spend quality time together.

      Research has shown that even relatively small variations in the amount of physical activity young people get can make the difference between a healthy weight and being overweight. If your child is not physically active enough, encourage her to start by changing her behavior gradually. Even setting aside some time each day for jumping rope, kicking a ball in the yard, or skateboarding around the block will soon make a difference that she will be able to see and feel.

      If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity appeal more to her. If she enjoys competition, suggest competitive team sports that might appeal to her. If she is more solitary, running or swimming might have more appeal. If she is shy about exercising with other children, home exercise videos could help her be more active.

      One reason that children are less physically active than in previous generations is that fewer and fewer children walk or bike to school. If doing so is a safe alternative for your child, encourage the practice.

      Explore lessons and organized sports for your 9th grader. These might include gymnastics classes or soccer or basketball. As she grows and her physical abilities progress, your child may express an interest in sports that even a year ago were of little interest. Expose her to as many options for physical activities and sports as possible. Community organizations like the local YMCA can be a great exercise venue for the whole family.

      Encourage your child to try out different sports and activities and to find one that suits her. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let her sample a variety of sports to find her interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or frisbee, that might appeal to her. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” she learns to enjoy participating and pushing herself to improve.

      Exercise and regular activity help children feel comfortable with their bodies, which becomes especially important during puberty. Make sure your child knows about the changes that will take place in her body when she goes through puberty—things like sweating more, developing stronger body odor, growing pubic hair, and having acne.

      The link between physical activity and improved academic performance is becoming increasingly clear. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, children perform cognitive tasks better after participating in a session of physical activity. The report also notes that “frequent bouts of physical activity throughout the day yield short-term benefits for mental and cognitive health.” Encourage your child to take play actively or exercise before doing her homework or studying and to take short active breaks from sedentary activities. For example, if she is getting bogged down on some especially homework difficult problems, suggest that she clear her head by walking the dog or kicking a ball outside.

      Limit the amount of time your child is sedentary in front of the television or computer monitor. Your child should remain inactive for no more than an hour at a time.

      In addition to being aware of whether your child is not getting enough exercise, pay attention if she appears to be exercising too much. It is around this time that many children become susceptible to pressure to lose weight and develop a certain body type through exercise and diet. Children who participate in certain sports or activities that emphasize weight targets or body shape, such as wresting or ballet, can be especially vulnerable to this kind of pressure.

      Sleep

      Your child may try to make up for an inadequate sleeping schedule by bingeing on sleep during the weekends. By creating a rule that she cannot sleep in later than 10 am on the weekends, you will establish clear expectations around sleep and help her to avoid the drowsiness caused by an uneven sleep schedule.

      Since most teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each evening, a 20-minute power nap could be helpful. However, experts caution that adolescents should not be sleeping after 4 PM because it will disrupt an evening of restful sleep. If your child chooses to nap, have her set an alarm to ensure that she wakes up after 20 minutes.

      With age comes greater responsibility. Now that she is in high school, your child will most likely be setting her own bedtime. Work with her to create a plan that sets aside enough time to sleep each evening. If her bedtime is constantly getting pushed back, she is probably overscheduled and should consider dropping some of her commitments.

      Help your child maintain a regular study schedule so that she isn’t cramming the night before a major test. Researchers have found that the cost of losing sleep far outweighs the academic benefits of staying up late to study. Studying for a few hours every night will ensure that she can get plenty of rest prior to an important exam and retain the information that she learned.

      Does your child have a lot of homework? Encourage her to complete the homework that requires a computer earlier in the evening. This way she avoids exposure to the stimulating lights of the computer or television during the time right before bed.

      Check your child’s bedroom to see if it is a dark, calm, and quiet environment.  When you turn off the lights, there should be no illumination. Remove the television, computer, and other electronics from the room since they emit a blue light that disrupts your child’s sleep cycle.

      It is important to lead by example. Establish an electronic curfew for the entire family at least 30 minutes prior to your child going to bed. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by also turning off your cell phone and other technological devices. If your child owns a cell phone, encourage her to charge it in a different room from where she sleeps. This way she will not be distracted by tweets and texts.

      Caffeine and nicotine are both simulants and prevent a healthy night of sleep, especially if consumed after 4 pm.  If your child is having trouble sleeping, consider having her cut out caffeinated soda, energy drinks, chocolate, coffee, and nicotine for at least 2 weeks.

      Hygiene

      Talk to your child about the body changes that accompany puberty, such as menstruation, an increase in body odor, the growth of pubic hair, and the development of acne. Encourage your child to come to you with questions about health and hygiene or to seek advice from a physician or other reputable sources.

      Make sure that your adolescent understands that her personal hygiene routine will have to be more rigorous than it was when she was younger. Showering or bathing daily with attention to the underarms, groin, backside, and feet is more important than ever.

      Discuss with your adolescent whether she should be washing her hair every day. As her hair becomes greasier with the onset of puberty, she may need to do so.

      Talk to your daughter about good menstrual hygiene and make sure she all the supplies she needs. Explain the difference between sanitary pads and tampons, and make sure she understands that menstruation does not need to limit her ability to be physically active.

      Talk to your son or daughter about shaving when you start to see facial hair on him or hair on her legs, and give them the necessary equipment to start doing so.

      Body image issues increase sharply during adolescence. Use your child’s physical development to guide you through what subjects you should be addressing. If acne is a persistent problem, for example, consider seeking advice from a dermatologist. 

      Make sure that the information you’re passing on to your child is current. Some of the hygiene advice you may have been given when you were younger, about things such as shaving or menstrual hygiene, may no longer apply. 

      Learning to handle their changing hygiene needs can be a challenge for some adolescents. Don’t be too hard on your 9th grader if she is struggling or resistant. Make sure she understands how important hygiene is and that it is her responsibility to take care of her body and keep it clean.

      Make sure that your adolescent has all the necessary supplies to insure that she is well-groomed and clean. Help her shop for razors, deodorant, and other necessary toiletries.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular annual checkups, just as she sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child’s oral hygiene with her dentist and ask about measures such as fluoride supplements and dental sealants, which protect your child’s teeth against cavities and decay.

      Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning.

      Your child should be brushing her teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Your child should be flossing every day.

      See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, and if left untreated can result in severe complications.

      If your child plays a contact sport, she should wear a mouth guard to protect against dental injury and concussion.

      If a child’s permanent tooth becomes dislodged due to an injury, place the tooth in a container of milk and seek dental advice as soon as possible. Permanent teeth can sometimes be re-implanted successfully.

    Print This:  
    Share This:  

10th Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Don’t stock your cupboards with unhealthy food. You are less likely to be able to control what your teenager eats when you're not around, but if the only foods in the house are healthy, your teen is more likely to make healthy choices at home. 

      Make your plates half fruits and vegetables. Your teenager's portions should be about the same as yours. Focus on all of your plates and make sure half the plate is full of fruits and vegetables, the rest with whole grains and lean protein. Try plating the food prior to sitting down. Leaving the leftovers off the table can help control everyone's portions. 

      Continue to model healthy eating for your teen. He is still watching you, and many teens still look to their parents as the primary source for learning behaviors. 

      Discuss portion sizes rather than restrictions. If you emphasize dieting or restriction, it could encourage your child to not eat enough, just as modeling or encouraging excessive eating can lead to over indulgence. Teaching him about portion sizes allows him to make educated decisions even when he’s not with you.  

      Have your teen cook one healthy meal for the family each week. Let him decide the menu and prepare and cook the meal all on his own. This will improve his cooking skills as well as his confidence.

      Try talking to your teen about the immediate benefits of a healthy diet rather than stressing the long-term risks of high blood pressure or diabetes. Emphasize the positive benefits of a healthy diet – like healthier-looking skin, more energy, and strong muscles.

      Missouri pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert suggests having your teen download a food logging app to her phone if he shows interest in tracking what she eats. You can download the same app and compare who made the best choices throughout the day. 

      Schedule meals and sit down together as a family. Regularly preparing healthy foods and enjoying them together is a way to demonstrate to your teen the importance of a healthy diet. 

      Vegetables

      Plan a salad bar dinner with your teen and have him pick the theme. For example, Mexican night would include bean and grilled chicken salads, Greek night would have cucumbers, olives, and chickpea salads, and Asian night could feature tofu, cabbage, and even mandarin oranges. Having many veggie options to add to the salads makes sure you all get to create the salad you like while getting your vegetable servings in. 

      Keep vegetables accessible. Cut raw vegetables like carrots, celery, and cauliflower and keep them ready-to-eat in the fridge. They’ll go great with a dip like hummus or yogurt dip for an after-school snack.

      For teens who still don’t like eating vegetables, try making a vegetable pilaf part of dinner. Chop asparagus, broccoli, and mushrooms and add them to brown rice. If you’re short on time, frozen vegetable medleys can be a good mixture with rice as well. 

      Make sure you continue to eat your vegetables. Missouri pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert reminds parents that teens are still influenced by Mom and Dad, whether they admit it or not, so it’s important to model healthy behavior. 

      Fruits

      Add a serving of fruit to breakfast. Whether you’re making your teen’s breakfast, packing it the night before, or he’s making it herself, adding berries to cereal or offering an apple or banana on the go is a good way to increase fruit intake. A homemade smoothie is another way to get fruit into breakfast. 

      Add fruits to savory meals for a new way for your teen to eat his favorite fruits. For example, add sliced apples or pears to a panini or salad or add pineapple to tacos or salsa. 

      Keep a bowl of fruit out on the kitchen counter. Keeping fruits in easy-to-grab spots for your teen will encourage him to eat them. Since fruit is portable, grabbing an orange on the way out the door is much better than grabbing a cookie.

      Grains

      Encourage your teen to choose popcorn as a snack. A natural whole grain, popcorn made without butter and little to no salt is a healthy way to increase whole grain consumption. 

      Teach your teen to read the nutrition label to look for whole grains. Whole grains should be the first ingredient on the list, regardless of whether the front of the package says “multigrain” or “all-natural.” A food with at least 3-5 grams of fiber per serving is a high fiber food.

      Make mini-pizza with whole grain English muffins. Top with low-sodium tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, and mushrooms. It’s an easy meal your teen could even make for himself. 

      Protein

      Teach your teen healthier protein choices. When eating out, encourage him to choose grilled chicken rather than fried, and order a smaller cut of meat, or take half of it to-go. Incorporate beans, fish, and nuts into meals, and swap ground lean turkey for ground beef in some recipes.

      Make eggs or egg whites a part of breakfast. Whether you scramble them in an omelet, or hard-boil them to eat on-the-go, eggs are a great way to get lean protein into your teen’s morning. 

      Keep unsalted nuts or peanut butter on hand for an after school snack for your teen. Nuts are a great way to increase lean protein, and when paired with fruit they’re a well-balanced snack.

      Dairy

      Make a healthier dip for vegetables with low-fat yogurt. Use low-fat plain or Greek yogurt and add spices like garlic powder, pepper, dried dill, and dried parsley. Add a small amount of honey or cinnamon to yogurt for a dip for fruits. 

      Add low-fat milk or soymilk to frozen fruits and spinach for a healthy smoothie. Smoothies are a great option for a quick breakfast or even an afternoon snack or dessert. 

      Serve low-fat milk or low-sugar soy milk with family dinner. It may be hard to keep your teen drinking milk, but if it’s a regular part of the dinner routine he will be more likely to continue drinking it.

      Oils & Fats

      Add healthy fats from avocado to a sandwich or wrap instead of mayonnaise or creamy condiments.

      Try to make sure you and your teen eat fatty fish like salmon or trout twice a week. These fish have healthy fats and essential nutrients. 

      Sodium & Salt

      Ask for low-sodium options when you and your teen eat out. Many restaurants will prepare a low-sodium meal or offer suggestions on low-sodium dishes if you ask the waiter. 

      Keep the salt shaker off the table at dinner. Your teen is less likely to reach for it when it’s not in front of him. Use spices like garlic, onion powder, or pepper to give food additional flavor without adding salt.

      Teach your teen to spot high-sodium content on a nutrition labels. Foods with more than 400 milligrams of sodium per serving are considered high. He should be looking for foods with less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. 

      Added Sugars

      Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator with a couple slices of lemon or cucumber. The flavor added to the water makes it more attractive to your teen than the water straight from the tap or sugar-sweetened beverages.

      Instead of buying sugar-sweetened cereals, have your teen add sweetness to his cereal with sliced or dried fruit. This way he can control the amount of sweetness without adding sugars.

      Have your teen pack an orange when going to sports practice rather than a sports drink. Eating an orange during or immediately after practice can replace electrolytes lost to sweat. 

    Print This:  
    Share This:  
  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, and by 10th grade physical fitness is usually no longer a daily part of the school curriculum. According to a recent Institute of Medicine report on physical activity among young people, even the best physical education curriculum fails to provide the necessary 60 minutes of recommended activity a day. Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities he is doing in gym class. This will give you a better understanding of his overall level of physical activity.

      It’s especially important for parents to step in and fill the void by encouraging physical activity after school and on weekends. One of the most effective ways for parents to do this is by modeling good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend. Finding a physical activity that you and your child can do together, such as swimming at the local YMCA, is a great way for both of you to exercise and for you to spend quality time together.

      Research has shown that even relatively small variations in the amount of physical activity young people get can make the difference between a healthy weight and being overweight. If your child is not physically active enough, encourage him to start by changing his behavior gradually. Even setting aside some time each day for jumping rope, kicking a ball in the yard, or skateboarding around the block will soon make a difference that he will be able to see and feel.

      If you are concerned that your teenager is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity appeal more to him. If he is shy about exercising with others, for example, home exercise videos could help him be more active. Your child is now old enough that he can make his own choices about the kinds of physical activity he wants to do. Help him understand that however he chooses to be active is fine, as long as he is physically active on a regular basis. 

      Encourage your teenager to become active in organized sports, which can be an excellent way of get the recommended amounts of physical activity and establishing regular exercise habits that can become the basis of lifelong fitness.

      One reason that children are less physically active than in previous generations is that fewer and fewer children walk or bike to school. If doing so is a safe alternative for your child, encourage the practice.

      Encourage your child to try out different sports and activities and to find one that suits him. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let him sample a variety of sports to find his interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or archery, that might appeal to him. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” he learns to enjoy participating and pushing himself to improve.

      The link between physical activity and improved academic performance is becoming increasingly clear. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, children perform cognitive tasks better after participating in a session of physical activity. The report also notes that “frequent bouts of physical activity throughout the day yield short-term benefits for mental and cognitive health.” Encourage your teenager to take play actively or exercise before doing his homework or studying and to take short active breaks from sedentary activities. For example, if he is getting bogged down on some especially homework difficult problems, suggest that he clear his head by walking the dog or kicking a ball outside.

      If your teenager is looking to supplement his income with a part-time job, encourage him to explore options that incorporate physical activity, such as making deliveries, babysitting, or helping to coach a sports teach.

      Limit the amount of time your teenager is sedentary in front of the television or computer monitor. He should remain inactive for no more than an hour at a time.

      In addition to being aware of whether your teenager is not getting enough exercise, pay attention if he appears to be exercising too much. It is around this time that many children become susceptible to pressure to lose weight and develop a certain body type through exercise and diet. Children who participate in certain sports or activities that emphasize weight targets or body shape, such as wresting or ballet, can be especially vulnerable to this kind of pressure.

      Sleep

      Your child may try to make up for an inadequate sleeping schedule by bingeing on sleep during the weekends. By creating a rule that he cannot sleep in later than 10 am on the weekends, you will establish clear expectations around sleep and help him to avoid the drowsiness caused by an uneven sleep schedule. 

      Since most teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each evening, a 20-minute power nap could be helpful. However, experts caution that adolescents should not be sleeping after 4 PM because it will disrupt an evening of restful sleep.  If your child chooses to nap, have him set an alarm to ensure that he wakes up after 20 minutes.

      With age comes greater responsibility. Now that he is in high school, your child will most likely be setting his own bedtime. Work with him to create a plan that sets aside enough time to sleep each evening.   If his bed time is constantly getting pushed back, he is probably over scheduled and should consider dropping some of his commitments.  

      Help your child maintain a regular study schedule so that he isn’t cramming the night before a major test. Researchers have found that the costs of losing sleep far outweigh the academic benefits of staying up late to study. Studying for a few hours every night will ensure that he can get plenty of rest prior to an important exam and retain the information that he learned.

      Caffeine and nicotine are both simulants and prevent a healthy night of sleep, especially if consumed after 4 pm. If your child is having trouble sleeping, consider having him cut out caffeinated soda, energy drinks, chocolate, coffee, and nicotine for at least 2 weeks.

      Now that your child is on the verge of driving, it is important to talk to him about the negative consequences of driving while sleep deprived. Sleepiness is a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents among teenagers. Research shows that teen drivers who sleep less than 8 hours a night are one-third more likely to get into an accident compared with teen drivers who have slept for 8 or more hours nightly.

      It is important to lead by example. Establish an electronic curfew for the entire family at least 30 minutes prior to your child going to bed. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by also turning off your cell phone and other technological devices. If your child owns a cell phone, encourage him to charge it in a different room from where he sleeps. This way he will not be distracted by tweets and texts.

      Check your child’s bedroom to see if it is a dark, calm, and quiet environment. When you turn off the lights, there should be no illumination. Remove the television, computer, and other electronics from their room since they emit a blue light that disrupts your child’s sleep cycle

      Does your child have a lot of homework? Encourage him to complete the homework that requires a computer earlier in the evening. This way he avoids exposure to the stimulating lights of the computer or television during the time right before bed.

      Hygiene

      Help your teenager to understand the various changes that are transforming his body and assure him that these are normal aspects of growing up. Encourage your child to come to you with questions about health and hygiene or to seek advice from a physician or other reputable sources. 

      Make sure that your adolescent understands the importance of personal hygiene and that he has all the necessary supplies to insure that he is well-groomed and clean. Help him shop for razors, deodorant, and other necessary toiletries.

      Talk to your daughter about good menstrual hygiene and make sure she all the supplies she needs. Explain the difference between sanitary pads and tampons, and make sure she understands that menstruation does not need to limit her ability to be physically active.

      Your teenager’s face and hair will be much oilier than they were when he was younger. He may benefit from trying facial cleansers or shampoos specifically targeted to adolescents.

      If your daughter wears makeup, teach her to remove it and to wash her face thoroughly before she goes to sleep at night.

      Body image issues increase sharply during adolescence. Use your child’s physical development to guide you through what subjects you should be addressing. If acne is a persistent problem, for example, consider seeking advice from a dermatologist. 

      Make sure that the information you’re passing on to your child is current. Some of the hygiene advice you may have been given when you were younger, about things such as shaving or menstrual hygiene, may no longer apply.

      Learning to handle their hygiene needs can be a challenge for some adolescents. Don’t be too hard on your 10th grader if he is struggling or resistant. Make sure he understands how important hygiene is and that it is his responsibility to take care of his body and keep it clean.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular annual checkups. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends check-ups every six months, but also advises consulting with your child’s dentist about how often to visit based on your child’s oral health. Ask the dentist about measures such as fluoride supplements and dental sealants, which protect against cavities and decay.

      Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning.

      Your child should be brushing his teeth for at least two minutes at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.

      Your child should be flossing every day.

      If your child plays a contact sport, he should wear a mouth guard to protect against dental injury and concussion.

      If a child’s permanent tooth becomes dislodged due to an injury, place the tooth in a container of milk and seek dental advice as soon as possible. Permanent teeth can sometimes be re-implanted successfully.

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11th Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Try to keep the family sitting down together for dinner. This is an important time to catch up with your teen and model healthy behavior. 

      Missouri-based Pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert suggests downloading a food-tracking app if your teen has shown interest in tracking what she eats. Download the same app yourself and compare who made the best choices each day. This can help you both make sure she’s meeting all her nutritional needs for the day. 

      Talk to your teen about the benefits of a healthy diet. Teens might not grasp the idea of preventing heart disease, but they will want a clearer complexion and more energy for sports or other activities.

      Try assigning one meal every week or two for your teen to prepare for the family, and have her manage it from the store to the table. You can steer her towards healthier options, but let her be in charge. This is also the best way to prepare your teen for living away from home.

      Permit eating only at the kitchen table, rather than in bedrooms or in front of screens. Missouri-based pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert says this will discourage mindless eating, and provide more time for your teen to sit at the table where you can get a chance to chat. 

      Vegetables

      Serve vegetables as much as possible at home. Your teen may not be eating vegetables when eating out and away from home. You can make up that deficit by trying to get as many veggies into her as possible when she is home. 

      Take part in “Meatless Monday.” The campaign was started by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Monday Campaigns. The premise is simple – just one day a week, cut out meat. It can be a great way to think additional protein sources that don’t come from meat. It can also get the family to try more vegetables and learn new ways to incorporate them into a full meal. 

      Have your teen choose vegetables for the two of you to prepare together. Cutting up raw vegetables to have on hand throughout the week for snacks or stir fries is one simple option. Or if you’re feeling adventurous try a new vegetable like artichoke or broccoli rabe.

      Fruits

      Make a fruit salad with your teen by letting her choose which fruits to include. Pineapple, melon, strawberries, kiwis, and grapes are all good options. Fruit salad can be a great choice to bring to a potluck or family gathering. 

      Try to keep fruit readily available, especially fruits that can be eaten on-the-go. Your teen is probably very busy these days, and having fruits like oranges, bananas, and apples on hand can help encourage her to grab one on the way out the door. 

      Fruits can make a great option for dessert, but can also be added to dinner itself. Try adding fruit like pineapple to kabobs or chicken dishes for a different spin on savory foods. 

      Teach your teen to eat whole fruit before other snacks or juice. The fiber from the fruit will help her feel full and may cut down on the amount of processed foods she eats.

      Grains

      Encourage your teen to eat popcorn as a snack. Popcorn is naturally a whole grain, and with limited salt and butter, it can be a healthy snack. 

      Try swapping out refined grains for whole grains in the items you serve at home. For example, try brown rice instead of white, or whole wheat pasta instead of plain, or whole wheat pizza crust instead of plain. 

      Have your teen experiment with lesser-known grains. For example, quinoa and millet can be used in place of rice in many dishes. 

      Protein

      Keep unsalted nuts or peanut butter on hand for an after school snack for your teen. Nuts are a great way to increase lean protein, and when paired with fruit they’re a well-balanced snack.

      Make eggs or egg whites a part of breakfast. Whether you scramble them in an omelet, or hard-boil them to eat on-the-go, eggs are a great way to get lean protein into your teen’s morning. 

      Teach your teen healthier protein choices. When eating out, encourage him to choose grilled chicken rather than fried, and order a smaller cut of meat, or take half of it to-go. Incorporate beans, fish, and nuts into meals, and swap ground lean turkey for ground beef in some recipes.

      Dairy

      Serve milk with dinners or other meals at home. Many teens replace milk with soda and other beverages at this age. It’s important to try to make nutritional drinks available where possible. 

      Try to keep low-fat string cheese in the house and easily accessible. It can be easily packed for lunch or a snack and is a great way to increase your teen’s dairy intake. 

      Try to keep low-fat yogurt in the refrigerator for a quick breakfast for teen on the go. Add fruit and almonds or walnuts to sweeten and add protein and healthy fats. 

      Oils & Fats

      Substitute vegetable oils for butters or margarines when cooking at home. Your teen may consume these fats when she’s not at home, so it’s best to try to make everything she eats at home as healthy as possible. 

      Add avocado to a sandwich or wrap instead of mayonnaise. The avocado will add flavor while still giving the creaminess that mayonnaise would add. If your teen makes her own sandwiches, encourage her to make this substitution as well. 

      Teach your teen about making healthier choices when eating out with friends. Grilled instead of fried chicken, skipping mayo and cheese, and ordering a single-patty rather than a double are all good ways to limit fat intake while still eating out.

      Sodium & Salt

      Teach your teen to spot high-sodium content on nutrition labels. Foods with more than 400 milligrams of sodium per serving are considered high. She should be looking for foods with less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. 

      Prepare as many meals as possible at home, either by cooking them yourself or having your teen cook. Since most sodium is consumed in processed foods and foods served in restaurants or picked up at convenience stores, the best way to lower your teen’s sodium intake is to cook at home as much as possible. 

      Try limiting the number of times your teen eats fast food each week. You  may not always be able to control her choices, so try making sure items at home are as low-sodium as possible. 

      Try adding flavors to dishes without using salt. Garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, and herbs like cilantro or oregano can add a lot of flavor without adding sodium.

      Added Sugars

      Keep your kitchen free of items with added sugars as much as possible. Your teen may be eating a lot of snacks outside the home, and allowing only healthy low-sugar options in the house ensures that at least when she’s home she’s eating well. 

      Have your teen carry a water bottle with her whenever possible. This will keep her hydrated and less likely to buy sugary drinks when she’s thirsty.

      Teach your teen the difference between energy drinks and sports drinks. Some teens aren’t aware that energy drinks contain added stimulants and caffeine and aren’t necessary for promoting athletic performance or recovery. Highlight the dangers of mixing energy drinks with alcohol so your teen is aware of the risks. 

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  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, and by 11th grade physical fitness is usually no longer a daily part of the school curriculum. According to a recent report on physical activity among young people from the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, even the best physical education curriculum fails to provide the necessary 60 minutes of recommended activity each day. It’s especially important for parents to step in and fill the void by encouraging physical activity after school and on weekends. One of the most effective ways for parents to do this is by modeling good behavior. 

      Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling snow are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend. Finding a physical activity that you and your child can do together, such as swimming at the local YMCA, is a great way for both of you to exercise and for you to spend quality time together.

      Research has shown that even relatively small variations in the amount of physical activity young people get can make the difference between a healthy weight and being overweight. If your child is not physically active enough, encourage her to start by changing her behavior gradually. Setting aside some time each day for jumping rope, kicking a ball in the yard, or skateboarding around the block will soon make a difference that she will be able to see and feel. 

      Encourage your teenager to become active in organized sports, which can be an excellent way of get the recommended amounts of physical activity and establishing regular exercise habits that can become the basis of lifelong fitness.

      If you are concerned that your teenager is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity appeal more to her. If she is shy about exercising with others, for example, home exercise videos could help her be more active. Your child is now old enough that she can make her own choices about the kinds of physical activity she wants to do. Help her understand that however she chooses to be active is fine, as long as she is physically active on a regular basis. 

      Help your child to enjoy exercise and think of it as something fun that will make her feel good about herself. The behavior you model as a parent is crucial. If your child sees that you prioritize exercise and enjoy it, the chances increase that she will be inspired to follow your example.

      One reason that children are less physically active than in previous generations is that fewer and fewer children walk or bike to school. If doing so is a safe alternative for your child, encourage the practice. Encourage your child to walk whenever it is an option and set a good example, for example by taking the stairs rather than an elevator or by walking on escalators rather than just standing.

      The link between physical activity and improved academic performance is becoming increasingly clear. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, children perform cognitive tasks better after participating in a session of physical activity. The report also notes that “frequent bouts of physical activity throughout the day yield short-term benefits for mental and cognitive health.” Encourage your teenager to play actively or exercise before doing her homework or studying and to take short active breaks from sedentary activities. For example, if she is getting bogged down on some especially homework difficult problems, suggest that she clear her head by walking the dog or kicking a ball outside.

      If your teenager is looking to supplement her income with a part-time job, encourage her to explore options that require physical activity, such as making deliveries, babysitting, or helping to coach a sports team.

      Limit the amount of time your teenager is sitting in front of the television or computer monitor and set a good example with your own behavior. If you’re watching TV as a family, for example, have everyone get up and move around during commercial breaks. 

      In addition to being aware of whether your teenager is not getting enough exercise, pay attention if she appears to be exercising too much. It is around this time that many children become susceptible to pressure to lose weight and develop a certain body type through exercise and diet. Children who participate in certain sports or activities that emphasize weight targets or body shape, such as wresting or ballet, can be especially vulnerable to this kind of pressure.

      Sleep

      Your child may try to make up for an inadequate sleeping schedule by bingeing on sleep during the weekends. By creating a rule that she cannot sleep beyond 10 am on the weekends, you will establish clear expectations around sleep and help her to avoid the drowsiness caused by an uneven sleep schedule. 

      Since most teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each evening, a 20-minute power nap could be helpful. However, experts caution that adolescents should not be sleeping after 4 PM because it will disrupt a night of restful sleep.  If your child chooses to nap, have her set an alarm to ensure that she wakes up after 20 minutes.

      With age comes greater responsibility. Now that your child is past the midway point of high school, she will most likely be setting her own bedtime. Encourage her to use the 30 minutes before falling asleep to unwind and relax. Experts recommend that adolescents use the time to read a book or write in a journal, instead of doing more arousing activities, like watching television and texting with friends. 

      Help your child maintain a regular study schedule so that she isn’t cramming the night before a major test. Researchers have found that the cost of losing sleep far outweighs the academic benefits of staying up late to study. Studying consistently for a few hours every night will ensure that she can get plenty of rest prior to an important exam and retain the information that she learned.

      Does your child have a lot of homework? Encourage her to complete the homework that requires a computer earlier in the evening. This way she avoids exposure to the stimulating lights of the computer or television during the time right before bed. 

      Check your child’s bedroom to see if it is a dark, calm, and quiet environment. When you turn off the lights, there should be no illumination. Remove the television, computer, and other electronics from her room since they emit a blue light that disrupts your child’s sleep cycle.  

      It is important to lead by example. Establish an electronic curfew for the entire family at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by turning off your own cell phone and other technological devices. If your child owns a cell phone, encourage her to charge it in a different room from where she sleeps.  This way she will not be distracted by tweets and texts.

      Caffeine and nicotine are both simulants and prevent a healthy night of sleep, especially if consumed after 4 pm. If your child is having trouble sleeping, consider having her cut out caffeinated soda, energy drinks, chocolate, coffee, and nicotine for at least 2 weeks. 

      Now that your child is potentially driving, it is important to talk to her about the negative consequences of driving while sleep-deprived. Sleepiness is a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents among teenagers.  Research shows that teen drivers who sleep less than 8 hours a night are one-third more likely to get into an accident compared with teen drivers who have slept for 8 or more hours per night.

      Hygiene

      Help your teenager to understand the various changes that are transforming her body and assure her that these are normal aspects of growing up. Encourage your child to come to you with questions about health and hygiene or to seek advice from your family physician or other trusted sources. 

      Make sure that your adolescent understands the importance of personal hygiene and that she has all the necessary supplies to ensure that she is well-groomed and clean. Help her shop for razors, deodorant, and other necessary toiletries.

      Talk to your daughter about good menstrual hygiene and make sure she all the supplies she needs. Explain the difference between sanitary pads and tampons, and make sure she understands that menstruation does not need to limit her ability to be physically active.

      Your teenager’s face and hair will be much oilier than they were when she was younger. She may benefit from trying facial cleansers or shampoos specifically targeted to adolescents.

      If your daughter wears makeup, teach her to remove it and to wash her face thoroughly before she goes to sleep at night.

      Body image issues increase sharply during adolescence. Use your child’s physical development to guide you through what subjects you should be addressing. If acne is a persistent problem, for example, consider seeking advice from a dermatologist. 

      Make sure that the information you’re passing on to your child is current and medically sound. Some of the hygiene advice you may have been given when you were younger, about things such as shaving or menstrual hygiene, may no longer apply.

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends check-ups every six months, but also advises consulting with your child’s dentist about how often to visit based on your child’s oral health. Ask the dentist about measures such as dental sealants, which protect against cavities and decay.

      Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning. 

      Help your child understand the importance of good oral hygiene, including brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day.

      If your child plays a contact sport, she should wear a mouth guard to protect against dental injury and concussion.

      If a child’s tooth becomes dislodged due to an injury, place the tooth in a container of milk and seek dental advice as soon as possible. Permanent teeth can sometimes be re-implanted successfully.

      Consult your child’s dentist about the growth of her wisdom teeth and whether they will need to be extracted.

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12th Grade

  • Nutrition:

      General

      Try to keep the family sitting down together for dinner. This is an important time to catch up with your teen and model healthy behavior. 

      Missouri-based pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert suggests downloading a food-tracking app if your teen has shown interest in tracking what he eats. Download the same app yourself and compare who made the best choices each day. This can help you both make sure he’s meeting all his nutritional needs for the day. 

      Talk to your teen about the benefits of a healthy diet. Teens might not grasp the idea of preventing heart disease, but they will want a clearer complexion and more energy for sports or other activities.

      Try assigning one meal every week or two for your teen to prepare for the family, and have him manage it from the store to the table. You can steer him towards healthier options, but let him be in charge. This is also the best way to prepare your teen for living away from the home.  

      Permit eating only at the kitchen table, rather than in bedrooms or in front of screens. Missouri-based Pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert says this will discourage mindless eating, and provide more time for your teen to sit at the table, where you can have a chance to chat. 

      Vegetables

      Serve vegetables as much as possible at home. Your teen may not be eating vegetables when eating outside of the home. You can make up that deficit by trying to get as many veggies into him as possible when he is home.

      Take part in “Meatless Monday.” The campaign was started by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Monday Campaigns. The premise is simple – just one day a week, cut out meat. It can be a great way to think additional protein sources that don’t come from meat. It can also get the family to try more vegetables and learn new ways to incorporate them into a full meal. 

      Have your teen choose vegetables for the two of you to prepare together. Cutting up raw vegetables to have on hand throughout the week for snacks or stir fries is one simple option. Or if you’re feeling adventurous try a new vegetable like artichoke or broccoli rabe. 

      Fruits

      Make a fruit salad with your teen by letting him choose which fruits to include. Pineapple, melon, strawberries, kiwis, and grapes are all good options. Fruit salad can be a great choice to bring to a potluck or family gathering. 

      Try to keep fruit readily available, especially fruits that can be eaten on-the-go. Your teen is probably very busy these days, and having fruits like oranges, bananas, and apples on hand can help encourage him to grab one on the way out the door. 

      Fruits can make a great option for dessert, but can also add to dinner itself. Try adding fruit like pineapple to kabobs or chicken dishes for a different spin on savory foods. 

      Teach your teen to eat whole fruit before other snacks or juice. The fiber from the fruit will help him feel full and may cut down on the amount of processed foods he eats. 

      Grains

      Encourage your teen to eat popcorn as a snack. Popcorn is naturally a whole grain, and with limited salt and butter, it can be a healthy snack. 

      Try swapping out refined grains for whole grains in the items you serve at home. For example, try brown rice instead of white, or whole wheat pasta instead of plain, or whole wheat pizza crust instead of plain. 

      Have your teen experiment with lesser-known grains. For example, quinoa and millet can be used in place of rice in many dishes. 

      Protein

      Keep unsalted nuts or peanut butter on hand for an after school snack for your teen. Nuts are a great way to increase lean protein, and when paired with fruit they’re a well-balanced snack.

      Make eggs or egg whites a part of breakfast. Whether you scramble them in an omelet, or hard-boil them to eat on-the-go, eggs are a great way to get lean protein into your teen’s morning. 

      Teach your teen healthier protein choices. When eating out, encourage him to choose grilled chicken rather than fried, and order a smaller cut of meat, or take half of it to-go. Incorporate beans, fish, and nuts into meals, and swap ground lean turkey for ground beef in some recipes.

      Dairy

      Serve milk with dinners or other meals at home. Many teens replace milk with soda and other beverages at this age. It’s important to try to make nutritional drinks available where possible. 

      Try to keep low-fat string cheese in the house and easily accessible. It can be easily packed for lunch or a snack and is a great way to increase your teen’s dairy intake. 

      Try to keep low-fat yogurt in the refrigerator for a quick breakfast for on the go teens. Add fruit and almonds or walnuts to sweeten and add protein and healthy fats. 

      Oils & Fats

      Substitute vegetable oils for butters or margarines when cooking at home. Your teen may consume these fats when he’s not at home, so it’s best to try to make everything he eats at home as healthy as possible.

      Add avocado to a sandwich or wrap instead of mayonnaise. The avocado will add flavor while still giving the creaminess that mayonnaise would add. If your teen makes his own sandwiches, encourage him to make this substitution as well. 

      Teach your teen about making healthier choices when eating out with friends. Grilled instead of fried chicken, skipping mayo and cheese, and ordering a single-patty rather than a double are all good ways to limit fat intake while still eating out.

      Sodium & Salt

      Teach your teen to spot high-sodium content on nutrition labels. Foods with more than 400 milligrams of sodium per serving are considered high. He should be looking for foods with under 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. 

      Prepare as many meals as possible at home, either by cooking them yourself or having your teen cook. Since most sodium is consumed in processed foods and foods served at restaurants or picked up at convenience stores, the best way to lower your teen’s sodium intake is to cook at home as much as possible. 

      Try limiting the number of times your teen eats fast food each week. You may not always be able to control his choices, so try making sure items at home are as low-sodium as possible. 

      Try adding flavors to dishes without using salt. Garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, and herbs like cilantro or oregano can add a lot of flavor without adding sodium. 

      Added Sugars

      Keep your kitchen free of items with added sugars as much as possible. Your teen may be eating a lot of snacks outside the home, and allowing only healthy low-sugar options in the house ensures that at least when he’s home he’s eating well. 

      Have your teen carry a water bottle with him whenever possible. This will keep him hydrated and less likely to buy sugary drinks when he’s thirsty. 

      Teach your teen the difference between energy drinks and sports drinks. Some teens aren’t aware that energy drinks contain added stimulants and caffeine and aren’t necessary for promoting athletic performance or recovery. Highlight the dangers of mixing energy drinks with alcohol so your teen is aware of the risks. 

    Print This:  
    Share This:  
  • Physical Development:

      Physical Activity

      School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, and by 12th grade, physical fitness is usually no longer a daily part of the school curriculum. According to a recent report on physical activity among young people from the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, even the best physical education curriculum fails to provide the necessary 60 minutes of recommended activity each day. It’s especially important for parents to step in and fill the void by encouraging physical activity after school and on weekends. One of the most effective ways for parents to do this is by modeling good behavior. 

      Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling snow are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend. Finding a physical activity that you and your child can do together, such as swimming at the local YMCA, is a great way for both of you to exercise and for you to spend quality time together.

      Research has shown that even relatively small variations in the amount of physical activity young people get can make the difference between a healthy weight and being overweight. If your child is not physically active enough, encourage him to start by changing his behavior gradually. Setting aside some time each day for jumping rope, kicking a ball in the yard, or skateboarding around the block will soon make a difference that he will be able to see and feel.

      Encourage your teenager to become active in organized sports, which can be an excellent way of get the recommended amounts of physical activity and establishing regular exercise habits that can become the basis of lifelong fitness.

      If you are concerned that your teenager is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity appeal more to him. If he is shy about exercising with others, for example, home exercise videos could help him be more active. Your child is now old enough that he can make his own choices about the kinds of physical activity he wants to do. Help him understand that however he chooses to be active is fine, as long as he is physically active on a regular basis.

      Help your child to enjoy exercise and think of it as something fun that will make him feel good about himself. The behavior you model as a parent is crucial. If your child sees that you prioritize exercise and enjoy it, the chances increase that he will be inspired to follow your example.

      One reason that children are less physically active than in previous generations is that fewer and fewer children walk or bike to school. If doing so is a safe alternative for your child, encourage the practice. Encourage your child to walk whenever it is an option and set a good example, for example by taking the stairs rather than an elevator or by walking on escalators rather than just standing.

      The link between physical activity and improved academic performance is becoming increasingly clear. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, children perform cognitive tasks better after participating in a session of physical activity. The report also notes that “frequent bouts of physical activity throughout the day yield short-term benefits for mental and cognitive health.” Encourage your teenager to play actively or exercise before doing his homework or studying and to take short active breaks from sedentary activities. For example, if he is getting bogged down on some especially homework difficult problems, suggest that he clear his head by walking the dog or kicking a ball outside.

      If your teenager is looking to supplement his income with a part-time job, encourage him to explore options that require physical activity, such as making deliveries, babysitting, or helping to coach a sports team.

      Limit the amount of time your teenager is sitting in front of the television or computer monitor and set a good example with your own behavior. If you’re watching TV as a family, for example, have everyone get up and move around during commercial breaks. 

      In addition to being aware of whether your teenager is not getting enough exercise, pay attention if he appears to be exercising too much. It is around this time that many adolescents become susceptible to pressure to lose weight and develop a certain body type through exercise and diet. Children who participate in certain sports or activities that emphasize weight targets or body shape, such as wresting or ballet, can be especially vulnerable to this kind of pressure.

      Sleep

      Your child may try to make up for an inadequate sleeping schedule by bingeing on sleep during the weekends. Encourage him to sleep no later than 10 am on the weekends. This will help him avoid the drowsiness caused by an uneven sleep schedule and ensure that he is well-rested for school on Monday. 

      Since most teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each evening, a 20-minute power nap could be helpful. However, experts caution that adolescents should not be sleeping after 4 PM because it will disrupt a night of restful sleep. If your child chooses to nap, have him set an alarm to ensure that he wakes up after 20 minutes.

      With age comes greater responsibility. Now that your child is almost finished with high school, he will most likely be setting his own bedtime. Encourage him to use the 30 minutes before falling asleep to unwind and relax. Experts recommend that teens use the time to read a book or write in a journal, instead of doing more arousing activities, like playing video games, watching television, and texting with friends. 

      Help your child maintain a regular study schedule so that he isn’t cramming the night before a major test. Researchers have found that the costs of losing sleep far outweigh the academic benefits of staying up late to study. Studying consistently for a few hours every night will ensure that he can get plenty of rest prior to an important exam and retain the information that he has learned.  

      Does your child have a lot of homework? Encourage him to complete the homework that requires a computer earlier in the evening. This way he avoids exposure to the stimulating lights of the computer or television during the time right before bed. 

      Check your child’s bedroom to see if it is a dark, calm, and quiet environment. When you turn off the lights, there should be no illumination.  Remove the television, computer, and other electronics from his room since they emit a blue light that disrupts your child’s sleep cycle.

      It is important to lead by example. Establish an electronic curfew at least 30 minutes prior to your child going to bed for the entire family. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by turning off your own cell phone and other technological devices. If your child owns a cell phone, encourage him to charge it in a different room from where he sleeps.  This way he will not be distracted by tweets and texts.

      Caffeine and nicotine are both simulants and prevent a healthy night of sleep, especially if consumed after 4 pm. If your child is having trouble sleeping, consider having him cut out caffeinated soda, energy drinks, chocolate, coffee, and nicotine for at least 2 weeks.

      Now that your child is driving, it is important to talk to him about the negative consequences of driving while sleep deprived. Sleepiness is a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents among teenagers. Research shows that teen drivers who sleep less than 8 hours a night are one-third more likely to get into an accident compared with teen drivers who have slept for 8 or more hours per night. 

      Hygiene

      Help your teenager to understand the various changes that are transforming his body and assure him that these are normal aspects of growing up. Encourage your child to come to you with questions about health and hygiene or to seek advice from your family physician or other trusted sources. 

      Make sure that your adolescent understands the importance of personal hygiene and that he has all the necessary supplies to ensure that he is well-groomed and clean. Help him shop for razors, deodorant, and other necessary toiletries.

      Talk to your daughter about good menstrual hygiene and make sure she all the supplies she needs. Explain the difference between sanitary pads and tampons, and make sure she understands that menstruation does not need to limit her ability to be physically active.

      Your teenager’s face and hair will be much oilier than they were when he was younger. He may benefit from trying facial cleansers or shampoos specifically targeted to adolescents.

      If your daughter wears makeup, teach her to remove it and to wash her face thoroughly before she goes to sleep at night.

      Body image issues increase sharply during adolescence. Use your child’s physical development to guide you through what subjects you should be addressing. If acne is a persistent problem, for example, consider seeking advice from a dermatologist. 

      Make sure that the information you’re passing on to your child is current and medically sound. Some of the hygiene advice you may have been given when you were younger, about things such as shaving or menstrual hygiene, may no longer apply. 

      Oral Health

      Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends check-ups every six months, but also advises consulting with your child’s dentist about how often to visit based on your child’s oral health. Ask the dentist about measures such as dental sealants, which protect against cavities and decay.

      Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning. 

      Help your child understand the importance of good oral hygiene, including brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day.

      If your child plays a contact sport, he should wear a mouth guard to protect against dental injury and concussion.

      If a child’s tooth becomes dislodged due to an injury, place the tooth in a container of milk and seek dental advice as soon as possible. Permanent teeth can sometimes be re-implanted successfully.

      Consult your child’s dentist about the growth of his wisdom teeth and whether they will need to be extracted.

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