What should a healthy day look like for your child?

What does a healthy day look like?

Healthy Sleep | Healthy Teeth | Healthy Eating and Drinking | Healthy Play and Exercise

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Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development, learning and growth. By age 2 most children have spent more time asleep than awake. Overall, a child will spend 40% of their childhood asleep!

  • Try to develop regular daytime and bedtime schedules that work for you and your child(ren)
    • Active children are sleepy children
  • Create a consistent and enjoyable bedtime routine that works for you
    • Avoid watching screens / TV at least 1 hour before bedtime 
  • Establish a regular "sleep friendly" environment
    • Calm, comfortable, cool and dark with no television or screens
  • Encourage baby and children to fall asleep independently
    • Set limits that are consistent, communicated and enforced
    • Encourage use of a security object such as a blanket or stuffed toy (this is only recommended for a child over the age of 1)

Toddlers need about 11 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their naptimes will decrease to once a day lasting about 1 to 3 hours.

The Sleep Charity have some healthy sleep tips for children.

For further information, please visit our sleep page and safe sleeping page.

A poor diet can affect your child's teeth. Begin to brush your child's teeth twice a day every day as soon as they appear. Use a smear of toothpaste (up to 3 years) or a pea sized amount (3-6 year olds). Try to use a mint flavoured toothpaste from the start. You should contact your dentist for a check-up as soon as the first tooth appears. 

Children aged 0-6 years old should use a toothpaste containing at least 1,000ppm fluoride. Those at higher risk of tooth decay should use a toothpaste containing 1350-1500ppm fluoride. Children aged 7 and over should use a toothpaste containing 1350-1500ppm fluoride.

Tooth decay is totally preventable.

Tips for healthy teeth:

  • Don't offer your child foods or drinks high in sugar
  • Don't offer anything except milk or water in your baby's bottle
  • Don't let your baby or toddler take a bottle of milk to bed and fall asleep with milk pooling round their teeth
  • Don't dip dummies in anything sweet or pacify children with sweet foods
  • Do introduce a cup from 6 months
  • Take them to the dentist as soon as their teeth appear to get them used to it

Download the brush DJ app, click here

Healthy eating isn’t just about the food children eat. It is also about behaviour around eating. Children (especially toddlers) need clear boundaries. Don't let all those good eating habits disappear as your baby gets older. These are some tips for enjoying food:

  • Make mealtimes a family and social event. Sit together at a table and turn off screens and TV. This also encourages slower eating which in turn reduces the volume we eat. We all tend to eat more when distracted by a screen
  • It is important to encourage your child to feed themselves (finger foods or spoon foods). Your child will be pretty good at knowing when they are full but we tend to keep encouraging them to eat more. At mealtimes allow older children to serve themselves
  • Set boundaries about eating. Children often demand food or insist they are hungry when you know they have had enough to eat. They are often bored and/or thirsty
  • Don't let your older children get into the habit of helping themselves to food from the cupboards or fridge between meals. Again, this is often a sign of boredom. Make sure they always ask. If you think they have had enough to eat or there is a meal coming up, do not allow it
  • Remember that being hungry is normal before meals, otherwise we would have no appetite. Children need to learn to wait
  • Do not worry if your toddler refuses something to eat. Adults can create fussy children because we tend to over interpret likes and dislikes. In fact, children cannot make real choices before they reach 4 to 5 years. Offer them what you expect them to eat with obvious allowances. If they choose not to eat it do not be tempted to offer something else. They will eat when they are hungry
  • Try to avoid drinks laden with sugar, this include pure fruit juice and fizzy drinks. These are also not good for teeth! Tooth decay is totally preventable
  • Try not to reward with food and do not let others either. If grandparents want to offer treats suggest sticker books, reading books or an outing instead

Click here to download the Healthy Infant Feeding Booklet where this information was extracted from.

For further information, please visit our healthy eating page.

It's important to make sure the lunchbox your child takes to nursery or preschool provides a healthy and balanced lunch. This means plenty of good quality foods from the 5 food groups, with few 'processed' or packaged or ready-made foods (as these usually contains fewer good nutrients and often more salt and sugar).

A balanced packed lunch should contain:

  • starchy foods, these are cereals, bread, rice, potatoes, pasta. Starchy foods are a good source of energy and should make up a third of the lunchbox
  • protein foods, including meat, fish, eggs, beans, and tofu/quorn
  • a dairy item, this could be cheese, a yoghurt or milk as a drink
  • vegetables, raw and/or cooked
  • a portion of fruit
  • water or milk to drink

Children often like food they can eat with their fingers. Chop up raw veggies such as carrots or peppers and give them hummus or cottage cheese to dip the veggies in. Breadsticks and wholemeal crackers are great finger foods that can be paired with cheese pieces.

Replace chocolate bars and cakes with fresh fruit. Vary the fruit each day and get them to try new things. You could also make up a tasty fruit salad. Be inventive and encourage your children when they try something new. Some good ideas can be found here and further good ideas on healthy eating here.

Note that dried fruit is no longer recommended as a between meal snack as it's high in sugar and can be bad for teeth.

Your child will be able to get free school meals if they are in reception class, year 1 or year 2.

Families who are on benefits or a low income may be eligible for free school meals and healthy start vouchers for their children, so please visit your local council website.

How much sugar should children be eating?

  • Children aged under 4 no more than 12g or 4 teaspoons of sugar per day
  • Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g or 5 teaspoons of sugar per day
  • Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g or 6 teaspoons of sugar per day
  • Children aged 11 years and upwards, as well as adults, should have no more than 30g or 7 teaspoons of sugar per day

An example of the sugar content of common lunchbox items includes:

  • A petit filous fromage fraise (80g) contains 2.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • Barney bear cake bar (chocolate) contains 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • No added sugar fruit shoot drink (apple and blackcurrant) contains 1 teaspoon of sugar

This calculated together is 5.5 teaspoons of sugar in a standard lunchbox. This means that in one meal, a child under 4yrs, will have exceeded their daily intake by 1.5 teaspoons.

Click here for more information from Change4Life

Further information can be found on our healthy eating page.

Exercise is important for children to keep them happy and healthy. There are plenty of fun ways to keep the whole family active.

Pre-schoolers need at least 3 hours of physical activity spread throughout the day, including active and outdoor play. The more the better!

Aim for a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity a day for school age children.

Children want to learn and most want to try new activities. Encouraging your child to keep physically active will help them to:

  • Develop movement skills
  • Keep up with friends in the playground and in sporting activities as they get older
  • Stay a healthy weight
  • Keep a healthy heart

All activities such as active play inside or outside, walking, running and dancing counts.

If at all possible try and limit TV and other screen time like computers to just one hour a day.

Be patient; some children take longer than others to learn new skills. Some are better co-ordinated than others. Keep gently encouraging, make it fun and give lots of praise. Your child is unique, so try not to compare.

Fun activities for indoors or outdoors

  • Play 'keep it up' with a balloon
  • Have a dance-a-thon
  • Play catch with a bean bag
  • Plan an in/outdoor treasure hunt
  • Play musical statues
  • Play hide and seek
  • Read stories and sing songs that require actions in time with the words
  • Dance or jump to music
  • Make a den

Physically active toddlers should be in a safe environment and supervised at all times.

For more information on physical activity for children visit our Being Active page

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This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across West Yorkshire with consent from the Hampshire development groups.