Every year since 1928, Americans recognize Child Health Day on the first Monday in October. Child Health Day is a day in which all agencies and organizations interested in child welfare unite to bring awareness to the importance of child health. From planning a safe and healthy pregnancy to ensuring children wear seatbelts while in vehicles, parents are always looking out for the health and wellbeing of their children. Though it is not always an easy task, these ten ways to improve children’s health are simple ways to make an impact.
- Ban secondhand smoke
Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Serve more fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich with immune-boosting nutrients that every child needs. These nutrients may increase the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells and interferon, an antibody that coats cell surfaces, blocking out viruses. Studies show that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can also protect against such chronic diseases as cancer and heart disease in adulthood. (See also: Cancer-Fighting Foods)
- Exercise as a family
Just like adults, exercise keeps children healthy in many ways. Between exercise keeping their cardiovascular system healthy and increasing the number of natural killer cells, it is important to keep kids moving. However, exercising as a group rather than individually allows children the opportunity to build lifelong habits and learn how to do a variety of exercises. Family workout sessions can include hiking, bike riding, or playing sport.
- Set an early bedtime
Sleep deprivation can make children more susceptible to illness by reducing the immune system’s ability to attack microbes and cancer cells. Depending on their age, children require anywhere between 10 and 16 hours of sleep each day.
- Set a tooth timer
Cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children with adequate oral health. Children should be encouraged to brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day to maintain their oral health.
- Sing while hand washing
Hand hygiene has always been important, but it has become especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Help children learn the basics of infection control by encouraging them to sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song while washing their hands with soap and water.
- Let them help in the kitchen
Serving a child healthy food is different than teaching them healthy habits. Having a child involved with meal preparation will teach them how to make healthy meals along with other life skills, such as measuring and patience.
- Teach them to express their feelings
Mental health is as important as physical health, and children should learn this at a young age. Parents should teach their kids about physical, emotional, and social wellness with basic health information, practical tools for managing daily stress, and role modeling. It is important for kids to know that mental wellbeing doesn’t mean being happy all the time – it means knowing that its normal to feel sad, frustrated, and angry, as well.
- Keep kids at home when sick
Sometimes it feels impossible to put life on hold when a child becomes unwell. However, a few days of rest greatly improves a child’s chance of a speedy recovery. A child who continues to go to daycare or school could catch a secondary infection or even spread the virus to another child.
- Be someone they can look up to
It is not always easy to teach a child to do the right thing. However, children will always look to their parents or caregivers as role models. The best thing a parent can do to improve the health of their child is to live their life healthily and safely. Whether that means wearing sunscreen every day or eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, parents should always remember that young, loving, and impressionable eyes are watching.
For more healthy-living tips, visit our Cancer-Fighting Lifestyle section.
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