How can we ensure that our children, families, and communities are as healthy as possible? I had the chance to ask some Northern Health experts for their thoughts and here are ten tips (in no particular order!) that they shared.
10 tips for a happy and healthy first five years!
#1: Get outside and play
Children who play outside tend to have better health, spend more time playing, have better social interactions, are more creative, and have greater resiliency. Studies show that children who explore and take risks in supportive environments have the chance to figure out their own limits and do not see an increase in injuries.
#2: Wear the gear
Teach your child to keep their head safe. Put a fitted helmet on every time they tricycle, toboggan, bike, skate, or ski. Out on the water? Have your child in the right sized, fitted lifejacket for all water activities. Model safe behaviour yourself!
#3: Follow the routine immunization schedule
Immunization is one of the best ways to ensure your children stay healthy and are protected from certain vaccine preventable diseases. The routine immunization schedule ensures your child is protected as soon as they can be and is based on the best science of today. Learn more.
#4: Be aware of hazards
Scrapes and bruises won’t slow a child down for long, but serious injury can change their life forever. Identify and move anything that could burn, choke or poison your child. Move furniture away from windows. Lock up poisonous items like medicines, vitamins, alcohol, tobacco, and cleaning supplies. Keep hot liquids out of reach. Lower your tap water temperature to prevent scalds.
#5: Take time to give love, hugs, smiles and lots of reassurance
Emotional attachment is one of the keys to raising a happy, confident child. Ensure a close connection by spending time face-to-face with your baby each day, observing your baby, and getting down on the floor with your baby. Check out Vanessa’s article in Healthier You magazine for more tips.
#6: Raise children in tobacco-free families
Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke have increased health risks including respiratory problems and sudden infant death syndrome. They are also more likely to become smokers themselves. Reduce these risks in your family! Visit QuitNow.ca for resources to help you quit and access free nicotine replacement therapy products or medications through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.
#7: Find quality care
Looking for child care? Look for licensed child care providers who are warm, caring, respectful, and attentive to children’s individual needs. Daycare activities should recognize the value of play and happen in safe, well-planned environments that invite children to learn and grow. Learn more about licensing in the summer issue of Healthier You.
#8: Stop cavities and smile brightly
Brush children’s teeth daily with a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Limit drinks and food to scheduled meal and snack times and use a lidless cup to drink water for thirst. Start regular dental visits at age one or after teeth start appearing. Learn more.
#9: Crawl, dance, and play your way to 180 minutes!
According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, children aged 1-4 should accumulate at least 180 minutes of physical activity at any intensity spread throughout the day. Try various activities – crawling, walking, playing outdoors, and exploring – that develop movement skills in different environments. As children age, play can get more energetic – progress toward at least 60 minutes of energetic play per day by age 5.
#10: Model healthy eating
Eat with your child whenever possible, as this helps them learn from you. Provide regular meals and snacks. Offer a variety of nutritious foods from all four food groups. Allow your child to decide if and how much they want to eat.
Learn more from trusted resources:
- BurnFund.org (Too Hot for Tots!)
- BC Drug and Poison Information Centre (dpic.org)
This article was originally published in Healthier You magazine. Check out the Summer 2016 issue below!
About Vince Terstappen
Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.