Helping Your Child Be Healthy and Fit


Long-term good health is less an accident than the result of good habits and wise choices. To enjoy good health now and in the future, youngsters must learn how to eat, exercise, sleep, control stress, and be responsible for personal cleanliness and reducing the risk of disease. In addition, they need to be aware of what to do in an emergency and when to say "no".

Habits that include eating nutritious foods and understanding the relationship between physical and emotional health will help your child grow up healthy. Your child's ability to learn and the chances for a longer and more productive life can be greatly improved by developing and following good health practices.

First of All, Your Child Is Special

The mental and emotional health of your child is just as important as physical health. From the earliest moment, a child needs to feel that he or she is special and cared about by family members and friends.

A child who enjoys good mental and emotional health is able to approach new situations with confidence. When children are comfortable with themselves, they can express their emotions in a positive way. As children learn to value themselves and develop confidence in their ability to make responsible decisions, they are building a sense of self-worth or self-esteem.

Parents and teachers share the responsibility for helping children build self-confidence. A child who is confident is more successful in everyday interactions with peers and adults. Confidence in one's ability to learn new and difficult skills can affect future achievement, as well. Developing a trusting relationship with your child, establishing open communication, and recognizing personal achievements are all important. When children know they can do something well, it makes them feel special.

Get Ready, Get Set, Grow Up Healthy

From the time your child is born, there are ways in which you can help your child learn how to grow up healthy. This book has activities that help children

The book also has safety tips, ways to help your child say "no" to drugs, a section on parents and the schools, a bibliography, and a chart to help you keep track of your child's vaccinations.

The Basics

Does This Mean I Can't Eat Ice Cream?

Good nutrition does not mean that your children cannot eat their favorite foods or that they must eat foods they do not like. Good nutrition means variety and moderation in a person's diet. Choosing what foods to eat is important in pursuing a healthy life. Your children may choose to eat certain foods because they taste good or because they are available. Make nutritious foods available and monitor the "sometimes" foods--sugary snacks and fatty desserts.

I'd Rather Play

Good health is a blend of physical and emotional well-being. Exercises are basic elements of physical fitness that should be part of play.

Aerobic exercises, such as jogging or jumping, that increase the heartbeat, strengthen the heart and muscles, improve endurance, condition the total body, and help prevent disease. Anaerobic, slow, stretching exercises improve flexibility and muscular fitness. Both types of exercise are important and fun.

I'm Afraid and I'm Unhappy

We all face stressful situations. With family members, with teachers, with friends, and with strangers problems can arise that make your child feel anxious, nervous, confused, or frightened. Too much stress or the wrong kind of stress can make it difficult for children to learn. Helping your child learn appropriate and healthy ways of handling stress, through exercise, proper sleep, discussing problems with an adult, or breaking down jobs into manageable parts, for example, is important.

You Sneezed Right in My Face!

A healthy lifestyle includes habits that will help your child avoid diseases caused by germs. Material carrying germs can be transferred through handshaking, kissing, coughing, sneezing, or by other means of direct contact. Most shared items have germs on them. Teaching your child how to reduce the transmission of germs can help your child, as well as others, stay healthy.

I Don't Feel Well!

A clean environment will support the health and well-being of your child now and in the future. You can begin by having a healthy home that is free of dirt, dust, and germs, as well as dangerous substances such as radon or lead. Make sure, too, that poisonous substances, such as household cleaners and pesticides, are kept away from children. You can also take precautions in preparing foods by washing them carefully and cooking them at the recommended temperature. Outside the home, you can work with others to help combat excessive pollution in your community.

Important Things To Know

Nutrition and Your Child

They went to the cupboard... Today, feeding children is based on concerns about heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. There is reason to be concerned. More than 20 percent of American children are overweight with a good chance that 50 to 70 percent of them will remain overweight as adults. It is important for parents to set good examples of healthful eating. Research shows that children develop eating habits similar to those of their parents. While it is a parent's job to provide balanced selections from the five food groups, children can be allowed a certain amount of freedom to choose what and how much they eat.

Poor eating habits and craving for sugar snacks and fatty foods may develop if parents fail to direct the decision making process. Remember that the issue isn't "good foods" versus "bad foods". If children balk at food put before them, don't worry. Studies show children will, over time, eat the amount of food that is right for them if they are offered healthful choices. You can't expect a child to want to eat broccoli if French fries are offered, or drink milk or orange juice when parents are drinking sodas. Of course, an occasional high fat food, gooey dessert, sugary snack, or soda is permissible, provided they are not substitutes for nutritious foods. Parents can make eating a pleasure for the entire family by helping create positive attitudes about food that will lead to a lifetime of good health.

What are the five food groups, and how can we help the entire family eat a balanced diet? The food guide pyramid on this page shows how to select a balanced diet and how to teach your child to make wise choices.

How many servings do you need each day?

                          Many      Children,       Teen
                          women,    teen girls,     boys,
                          older     active women,   active
                          adults    most men        men

                          about        about        about
Calorie level*            1,600        2,200        2,800

Bread Group Servings        6            9           11
Vegetable Group Serving     3            4            5
Fruit Group Servings        2            3            4
Milk Group Serving        2-3**        2-3**        2-3**
Meat Group Servings      2, for a     2, for a     3, for a
                         total of     total of     total of
                         5 ounces     6 ounces     7 ounces
Total Fat (grams)          53           73           93

A balanced diet includes food from each of the following food groups: 1. grains (bread, cereal, rice, and pasta); 2. fruit (fresh, dried, or unsweetened canned); 3. vegetables (raw or lightly cooked); 4. meat (meat, poultry, fish, dried beans, eggs, and nuts); and 5. dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese). Offer your children nutritious choices for meals and snacks. This way you can help them control their own diet. For example, you might offer a choice of an apple, an orange, or a banana. With older children (aged 7 and up) you can start by planning a menu together, letting the children check to make sure it includes all five food groups.

Remember that each of the food groups provides some, but not all, of the nutrients a child needs. Foods in one group can't replace those in another. No one of these major food groups is more important than another. For good health, all are necessary.

What's for breakfast? Many of us do not eat in the morning. Estimates suggest that up to 25 percent of all school-aged children leave the house without breakfast.

You may think that breakfast is just another meal. For a child, breakfast provides much needed energy (calories) to start the day off right. Adults may be able to make up for skipped breakfast by grabbing something on the way to work or while doing morning errands. Your child, however, does not have that opportunity. A nursery school child usually has a mid-morning snack 3 to 5 hours after waking up. After kindergarten, few children are offered a morning snack.

Getting your child to eat breakfast isn't always easy. Try to tune into your child's morning personality. A sleepyhead may need a quick breakfast. An early riser may like to eat breakfast before getting dressed. If this conflicts with your morning schedule, let your children get their own breakfast. Even a 6-year-old can open a container of yogurt.

A good breakfast consists of complex carbohydrates and simple sugars (breads, whole grains, fiber, fruits, and vegetables); proteins (dairy, chicken, beef, fish, eggs, nuts, and dried beans), and some fat. Carbohydrates and simple sugars offer quick energy but leave the stomach quickly. A breakfast of only carbohydrates can give a child the mid-morning "blahs". When milk, cheese, yogurt, lean meat, or an egg is added, the food stays in the stomach longer and provides sustained energy.

It's Child's Play

Physical fitness is a vital part of being healthy. For children, being and staying physically fit can happen with activities they refer to as PLAY! Play that makes them breathe deeply is aerobic exercise. Aerobic activities such as bicycling, jumping rope, roller skating, running, dancing, and swimming can be beneficial if they are done for 12 to 15 minutes without stopping.

The young child develops an active lifestyle as he or she begins to creep, crawl, and then walk. Young children learn how to move in their environment by playing alone in their own personal space.

As children grow, they hop, march, run, roll, toss, bounce, and kick. Their bodies are changing in terms of height and weight, and they are beginning to form a self-concept through comparison with others as they move.

When play is organized into specific movements, it becomes exercise. For exercise to become part of each day, these movements or activities should meet the interests and needs of your child. Play is the beginning. Children can follow their own paths to lifetime fitness by exercising for fun and at their own pace.

Watching too much TV can deprive your child of opportunities to play and exercise. Set a good example. Limit TV watching. Walk to your destination as often as possible. Play active games with your child. Help form neighborhood sports teams and participate in the recreation.

Everyone can exercise. Certain exercises keep your heart and lungs healthy. Strong, flexible muscles can be developed with exercise. As your child achieves fitness through exercise, a growing self-confidence will be another benefit of a fitness routine.

Let's Stay Well

Reducing the risk of disease is a major goal in helping your child grow up healthy. Bacteria and viruses cause disease and sickness, and cleanliness can help prevent the spread of these germs. Sharing such items as a comb, toothbrush, hairbrush, or cup, even among family members, can also spread disease. Having clean clothes and daily baths shows children that being clean not only feels good, but also helps them stay well.

You can teach your children to wash their hands at an early age. Tell your children that skin can stop germs from entering the body, and washing can reduce the risk of infection if your child has a cut or scrape.

Explain, too, that harmful germs and viruses can be spread by a sneeze or a cough. Teach your child to stay away from people who are sneezing and coughing. Children can help prevent the spread of disease if they cover their sneezes or coughs with a tissue.

Everybody has an internal disease fighting system (immune system) made of antibodies and white blood cells. Your child can help that immune system function well by getting enough sleep, by eating nutritious meals, and by exercising.

Vaccinations also prevent disease and play an important part in helping your child grow up healthy. The idea of having a shot may be frightening to a child. Help your child understand that this vaccination is a medicine that prevents disease. It's a lot more fun to be playing with friends than to be sick.

A vaccination chart for keeping track of immunizations can be found on the inside front cover. The importance of vaccinating children at the appropriate ages cannot be overemphasized.


The activities that follow are designed to introduce your child to some of the basic ideas of good health. There are activities that focus on understanding emotions and developing self-esteem, those that emphasize nutrition, those that stress cleanliness and caring for your body, and those that promote exercise (see the symbols to the right that indicate the type of activity). These activities are just samples of the many things you can do with your child to enhance awareness of the benefits of good health throughout life. So, get started and have fun!

Face File

Young children love to cut and paste. They can learn about their emotions at the same time.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. Have your child find pictures in magazines to illustrate different feelings.

  2. Have your child paste each face on cardboard or construction paper.

  3. Together, decide what feeling is expressed by the face and label the picture.

  4. Sort the faces by categories of feelings, such as sad, funny, surprised, happy.

  5. Use a box or folder to file the pictures.

By looking at the pictures, children can recognize how people feel by their facial expressions.

A Mirror of Me

Help your child frame a mirror with items that represent the things your child likes.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. Help your child attach a small pocket mirror inside the lid of a shoebox.

  2. Have your child decorate the inside of the lid with objects that reflect special interests. Some of the decorations might include a thumb print, photographs, pictures of favorite foods, sports, and hobbies.

  3. Have your child look into the mirror to see a wonderful face and the things that make it smile!

  4. You might want to hang the framed mirror on the wall of your child's room.

This activity recognizes the things that are important to your child and helps your child realize that an identity is based on one's own interests.

Quilt of Many Feelings

Traditionally, making quilts has been a way for people to express themselves through the use of color and pattern in a practical way. A quilt of faces can help your child understand how emotions are conveyed through facial expressions.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. Using different colors (pastel colors work best), cut the paper into 6" x 6" squares.

  2. Have your child draw faces representing feelings they have had:

    happy         loved
    sad           special
    good          jealous
    bad           lonely
  3. Have your child label these emotions.

  4. Paste the squares together on a large piece of paper to resemble a patchwork quilt.

Drawing pictures is one way children have of expressing themselves without feeling self-conscious or embarrassed.

My Folder

A folder with your child's name on it can help your child get organized while enhancing self-image.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. Have your child write his or her name or initials many times on a large sheet of paper.

  2. Fold the paper in half to create a folder.

  3. Place pictures, work from school, or drawings that are important to the child in the folder.

Names are very important to children. Just think of how upset they get when they are called names. Talk with your child about his or her name. Is there a favorite nickname? What does the name mean? Was your child named for someone? This is an opportunity for you and your child to talk together to build a strong self-image.

This Is the Way We Wash Our Hands

Children have to be reminded to wash their hands. This is a way to turn the reminder into fun.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. Have your child trace around his or her hand on a piece of paper or cardboard.

  2. Cut a small slice of soap from a large soap bar or use a small or sample sized bar of soap.

  3. Glue the soap onto the paper hand.

  4. Hang the poster in the bathroom over the sink to remind your child about hand washing.

Washing your hands is one of the best ways to avoid spreading germs to prevent disease. It is especially important when eating or handling food.

Smile If You Like Me

Make a game out of introducing your child to new foods.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. Cut paper into three 3"x 3" squares.

  2. On each piece of paper, trace around the bottom of a round object with a felt tip pen.

  3. Have your child draw three different kinds of faces in the circles: a face with a smile, an unhappy face, and a face with a straight line for a mouth to show "I don't care".

  4. Ask your child to try a new or different food. Emphasize that not all the portion has to be eaten: simply try the food and talk about likes and dislikes.

  5. Tell your child to give you one of the faces that reflects the feeling about the new food.

  6. Post a chart to record new foods your child tries.

  7. Set a goal, such as trying one new food a week.

  8. Reward your child for trying the foods by writing "Good job!" on the chart, putting stickers on the chart, or celebrating by taking a trip to the local zoo or library when the chart is complete.

This activity gives your child a chance to enjoy and learn about a variety of foods without the pressure of having to "clean your plate" at mealtime. One point to remember when doing this activity is to try not to use food as a reward or bribe.

Follow the Recipe!

One way to get children to eat healthful food, especially vegetables, is to involve them in the selection and preparation of a recipe.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. Choose a simple recipe to prepare.

  2. Write a shopping list from the recipe. Check the nutritional value of the ingredients by reading the nutrition label aloud with your child.

  3. Take the children to the market. The supermarket is the perfect place to introduce the older ones to label reading. For children over age 6, see who can find the products with the most sugars, fats, and salt. Explain that the first ingredient listed is what the food has the most of. Then, hunt for alternative, healthier foods.

  4. Allow children to feel the weight and texture of vegetables. Handling hits and vegetables will help them learn how to distinguish between ripe, unripe, or spoiled produce.

  5. Have children help you put away groceries. Preschoolers enjoy washing fruits and vegetables, and you can explain the proper way to wash them to remove dirt and insecticides. Have them store fresh vegetables in the refrigerator, explaining this will help retain vitamins and help the vegetables stay fresh longer. Have them store root vegetables (potatoes and onions) in a cool, dry place away from light.

  6. Place all the ingredients you will need for the recipe on a tray to make cooking more efficient.

  7. Keep tasks simple and within the child's abilities. Toddlers can stir an egg, mix ingredients, spread jams or peanut butter, or carry pots and pans. Older children love to measure dry ingredients and enjoy the challenge of pouring liquids without spilling.

Pediatricians recommend that parents should get more involved with their children. What better way than by making a game out of cooking, a necessary task but one in which everyone can be involved. Having your children participate in food selection can help you manage food choices for toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary school children.

Oven-Fried Potatoes

Here is a healthful recipe that you might want to try.

NOTE: This activity requires parental supervision.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. Cut potatoes lengthwise into strips about 4" x 1/2" x 1/4"

  2. Arrange in a single layer on a nonstick baking sheet.

  3. Pour margarine and oil over potatoes and toss to coat well.

  4. Sprinkle with paprika (young children enjoy doing this).

  5. Bake at 450 degrees for 40 minutes.

  6. Put on serving platter; sprinkle with cheese if desired.

Makes 6 servings

Safety tips in the kitchen: Children should not be left unsupervised when electrical appliances, flame, or heat are involved. Be extra careful with moving equipment, such as rotary blades of a mixer, food processor, blender, or hand mixer. Knives, scissors, and the like are best for older children. Remind children that handles of utensils on a stove top should be turned inward. Stirring spoons (especially metal ones) should have long handles and be kept away from the heat. Keep an eye on children near stoves, no matter what age and keep small children away from heat of any kind.

Sticks & Stones Snack

Here is a snack that your children will have fun making and enjoy eating while getting needed nutrients.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. Mix the cereal, pretzel sticks, and raisins in a mixing bowl.

  2. Eat as a "between meal" snack. Makes about 8 cups.

This recipe was adapted from Kid's Recipe Magic, 1990, General Mills, Minneapolis, Minnesota, p. 15.

The food guide pyramid shows that children need about 9 servings a day from the bread and cereal group and 3 servings of fruits. This snack can help meet these nutritional requirements.


Playing and singing with children can help make tooth brushing an enjoyable experience.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. When it is time for your children to brush their teeth, sing a silly song together about tooth brushing:

    This is the way we brush our teeth, Brush our teeth, Brush our teeth, This is the way we brush our teeth, So early in the morning!

  2. Make sound effects--"ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM .... or VROOM, VROOM, VROOM" when you watch them brush.

  3. Have your children name their teeth and use their names: "Now don't forget Cutters, Doggies, and Chompers!" (Children often find it interesting that dentists call some teeth "canines.")

Before your baby even has teeth, clean the gums with a wet cloth after feeding. When teeth start to come in, brush with a soft toothbrush and water. At about age 3, teach your child to brush as follows: start at the gum and gently massage under the gum, then work the toothbrush around the teeth in a gentle, circular motion. Floss teeth daily when all the baby teeth are in.

To Share or Not To Share?

Telling the difference between personal items that should not be shared and those things that are to be shared can be a hard distinction for children to make.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. Have your child collect pictures of a toothbrush, cup, comb, hairbrush, and spoon or fork from newspapers or magazines.

  2. Ask your child to paste the pictures on a large piece of paper.

  3. With a red felt tip marker or pen, have your child put an X or \ through each picture.

  4. Title the poster, "Things I Do Not Share".

  5. Have your child collect pictures of objects that he or she does share. These can be pictures of toys, pets, and books.

  6. Use these pictures to make a poster with the title "Things I Share".

Remind your children that disease is spread by the hands and through the mouth, so they shouldn't share toothbrushes, cups, spoons, or forks. head lice are spread by combs and brushes. Working with your child to make the posters will help you explain these points, while emphasizing that there are many things we can share.

I Do It For Me

How can I take care of myself? Here is an activity that will take advantage of your child's growing independence while emphasizing healthful responsibility.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. With your child, make a chart that lists healthful responsibilities:

    I take a bath. I wear clean clothes. I brush my teeth at least twice each day. I wash my hair. I wash my hands before eating. I wash my hands after going to the bathroom. I use my own brush or comb and don't let anyone else use it. I get plenty of sleep.

    The list can include other items that you and your child think should be on the list.

  2. Make a box for each day of the week after each responsibility.

  3. Have your child check off the things done each day.

  4. At the end of the week, write WOW over the responsibilities or place a sticker over those completed during the week.

It is important that children learn to take responsibility for the care of their bodies. Having a chart helps them develop self-reliance and helps to make life calmer for both of you.

Hold that Tiger!

Children love animals and they love to imitate. Combine these two interests to inspire exercise.

What you'll need

What to do

  1. Collect pictures of different animals.

  2. Paste each picture on a different piece of cardboard.

  3. Place the cards face down on a table and mix them up.

  4. Have your child select a card and turn the card over to reveal the animal picture on the other side.

  5. Have your child imitate the movements of the animal on the card. For example:

    rabbit     hop
    horse      gallop
    turtle     crawl
    elephant   slow lumbering walk, clasp hands together and
               swing arms side to side like a trunk.
    frog       leap
    tiger      fluid, smooth, sliding steps

These movements will help your child develop body awareness, space awareness, and coordination.

Warm Up

Use one or more of the following exercises to have your child warm up before doing more vigorous exercises.

All exercises have been adapted from Get Fit!, published by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 250, Washington, DC 20004.

What to do

  1. Arm Circles. Stand tall with knees slightly bent. Rise on your toes and slowly circle your arms inward and upward, until arms are straight over head. Inhale deeply. Continue circling your arms backward and downwards while lowering your heels and exhaling. Do this exercise slowly and smoothly. Repeat 5 times.

  2. Swinging March. Stand up straight with feet shoulder-width apart, hands at your sides. Alternate right and left arms in forward circle motions. At the same time, lift your opposite knee so that when the right arm is circling forward the left knee is raised and vice versa. Do 10 complete circles with each arm and then switch arms to swing backward. Repeat 10 full circles with each arm.

  3. Pendulum Push. Stand straight with arms at your side. Step to right, bending your right knee. Raise arms overhead and push toward the ceiling. At the same time, rise on your right toes and lift your left leg off the ground, keeping all the weight on the right foot. Put your left leg back on the ground, bending both knees and placing hands on shoulders. Repeat to the left side. Repeat 10 times on each side.

  4. Jumping Jacks. Stand straight with feet together. Jump up and land with your feet shoulder-width apart as you swing arms to shoulder height. Jump back to starting position while clapping your hands over your head. Jump up and land with feet apart while bringing your arms back to shoulder height. Jump back to starting position while lowering arms to your sides. Repeat this 4-part jumping jack 10-20 times at a slow, controlled pace.

Children should warm up their bodies for about five minutes to get muscles and joints ready for action and to prevent injury. They will be warmed up when they start to sweat and breathe heavier.


Muscles should be stretched after they've been warmed up.

What to do

  1. Back Scratch Stretch. Have your child stand or sit to do this exercise. Raise the right hand in the air with the palm facing to the back. Bend the elbow and place the palm of the hand on the back between the shoulders. Bring the left hand behind the back to try to touch the right hand. Hold 10-30 seconds. Repeat two times on each side. Do not force the stretch.

  2. Knee High Stretch. While standing, lift left knee toward chest. Place left hand under knee and pull leg up to stretch the back of leg and lower back. Keep the standing leg slightly bent. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat twice on each side.

  3. Thigh Stretch. Keeping body upright, grasp left foot behind you with left hand. Slowly pull leg back so that the knee moves away from your body until you feel a stretch in the front of your leg. Hold 10-30 seconds. Repeat twice with each leg.

  4. Calf Stretch. With hands against a wall, put right leg behind you. Keep right heel on the floor and very slightly bend the right knee. Lean forward until you feel a pull in your calf and behind your ankle. Hold 10-30 seconds. Repeat twice with each leg.

Stretching helps prevent muscles and joints from getting injured. Stretching makes the body more flexible so your child will be able to move easily. Stretching also helps your child relax.

Run For It!

After you've warmed up and stretched, you're ready to run.

What to do

  1. Beginner. Jog 2 minutes/walk 1 minute for a total of 15 minutes. Repeat. Do this at least three times a week.

  2. Intermediate. Jog 4 minutes/walk 1 minute. Do this for about 15-20 minutes at least three times a week. After about two weeks, reduce the amount of walking to 30 seconds. Gradually build up to about 30 minutes using this pattern.

  3. Advanced. Continuously jog for 20 minutes. If you like jogging, you can run for longer periods time.

Aerobic activities strengthen your child's heart and lungs by requiring lots of oxygen and making the heart beat faster. Walking, swimming, running, and dancing are examples of aerobic exercises.

Keep Going!

These exercises will help your child build muscle strength and endurance.

What to do

  1. Push Ups. Get down on your hands and knees and position yourself so that your back is straight, head in line with your spine. Hands should be placed slightly outside your shoulders, fingers pointed forward, feet on the ground. Slowly lower your body until your chest touches the floor. Return to starting position. Once you can do 20-25 push ups with your knees bent, advance to the straight-leg position on your hands and toes. Try to do 10 straight-leg push ups at a time.

  2. Curl Ups. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your arms across your chest, hands on opposite shoulders. Slowly curl your head, shoulders, and upper back off the floor, bringing elbows to thighs. Breathe out as you curl up and return to starting position while breathing in. Repeat 10 times. You might find it helpful to have someone hold your feet to the ground.

Curl Ups build strong stomach muscles, and Push Ups build strong arm muscles.

Cool Down

After doing aerobic or muscle exercises, your child is ready to cool down.

What to do

  1. Have your child walk around for a few minutes to make sure breathing is back to normal and that the heart is NOT beating fast.

  2. Your child should feel slightly relaxed when it is time to do stretches.

  3. Doing the stretching exercises given on previous pages or others, have your child stretch all major joints and muscle groups, especially those used in the workout.

  4. Have your child work on flexibility, since it's easier to stretch warm muscles.

Children should cool down after vigorous exercise to get their breathing back to normal. Cooling down also keeps muscles from becoming sore and stiff.

More Ideas

Here are some more ideas that will help your child grow up healthy.

Safety First

Be aware of ways to prevent accidents and be able to identify how accidents are caused. Teach your children to pick up toys off the floor and stairs. When cooking, try to use the back burners, making sure that pot handles and spoons are turned toward the back of the stove. Use safety latches on cabinets that contain cleaning fluids or knives and other dangerous utensils. Cover electrical outlets with plastic devices made for this purpose. And always be sure to keep an eye out for your children!

Identify safety rules and practices to prevent accidents at home, at school, and during recreational activities. Look for playground and swimming pool rules that give safety precautions, and explain them to your children. Make sure your child wears safety equipment for specific activities: a helmet when riding a bike and knee and elbow pads when roller skating, roller blading, or skate boarding. Have your child practice hand signals while bike riding. For the car, make a "Buckle Your Seat Belt" sign and place it where children can see it.

Be aware of peer pressure. Observe your children in social situations, and listen closely when they talk with you about things that happen at school or on the playground. Get to know the parents of your children's friends and try to attend as many functions in which your child is involved as you can.

Teach your children how to protect themselves. Have them practice saying "No." Tell them not to talk to strangers, to always walk with a friend, and to avoid isolated areas such as woods or vacant lots. If your child is followed by a car, he or she should run away to a friend or neighbor's house. Teach your children to be alert and to scream if someone grabs them. Keep the lines of communication open, so that your children will tell you if someone touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Work with your school and neighborhood to have the police brief your children about safety precautions and start a "safe home" program where neighbors display a sign in the window to show children that if they are in danger they can go to that house.

Response to Emergencies

Recognize and lean appropriate responses to emergency situations, such as fires, lightning, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Teach your children the proper uses of fire and fire safety. Plan a home fire escape with your children and practice it often. Also, show children what to do if their clothes catch fire (STOP where you are, DROP to the ground, and ROLL to put out the flames). Make sure your children know how to dial the emergency number 911. Post it and other emergency numbers near the telephone where they will be easily seen. In the event of a tornado, teach. your children that the safest place to go is the basement or interior room or hallway on the bottom floor of the house. In an earthquake, teach children to get under a desk or table, and stay away from windows If your children are outside during a storm and there is lightning, teach them not to stand under or near a tree. Trees tend to attract lightning, because they are so tall

First Aid

The best rule of thumb is, "When in doubt, call the doctor." Know the symptoms that require a doctor's care: intense pain, high fever, excessive bleeding, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing. Emphasize to your children that the best way to care for a minor cut or scrape is to wash it with soap and water and cover with a bandage if the cut is bleeding or will be exposed to dirt. If possible, take a first aid course from the American Red Cross, your local YM/YWCA, rescue squad, or other organization to learn the procedures in life-threatening situations, such as choking or poisoning. Some doctors have free pamphlets or video tapes on first aid and what to do in case of emergency.

And They Licked the Platter Clean

Growing Up Drug Free

From the time your child is born, there are things you can do to help your child grow up drug, alcohol, and tobacco free. Here are some guidelines.

For more information, you might want to contact

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Information 6000 Executive Boulevard, Suite 402 Rockville, Maryland 20852

(301) 468-2600/(800) 729-6686 (alcohol/drug information) (800) 662-HELP (toll-free; drug abuse treatment information and referrals).

Parents and the Schools

The school can be a vital link to your child's well-being. So much of your child's life is spent in school, it is important that you be aware of all the people and situations involved. Besides the school nurse (who may not be at the school full time), there are many resources you can call on.

Teachers are aware of the whole child and things that might be getting in the way of your child's learning. School counselors can advise on your child's social and emotional well-being. Many school counselors concentrate on helping children build self-esteem, and some work with groups of children with similar problems, such as coping with a divorce or death in the family.

Physical education classes provide an opportunity for exercise, and they foster teamwork. The school cafeteria is a source of well-balanced lunches (and breakfasts in some school districts), many of which are government-subsidized for low income students. The principal and teacher can advise on special services provided by the school district for children with handicaps and special learning needs.

The most important thing you can do is stay in contact with the school, especially your child's teacher. Listen carefully to the teacher, because the teacher will often spot problems or warning signs of serious trouble before you might notice them.

It is also important for you to tell the teacher if your child has a serious health problem or is experiencing an emotional crisis at home. It is imperative for the school to know if your child is on medication and what it is, who should be contacted in case of an emergency, and what to look for in your child's behavior that might be a warning sign of the onset of a medical emergency.

Your child's welfare is a partnership between the parent and the school. If a serious medical condition exists, private or community health services should be consulted.

What can you expect of the school?

The following information has been adapted from Managing Asthma: A Guide for Schools, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education.

The principal should:

The school nurse should:

The teacher should:

These are just some of the actions that school personnel can take to make the school a safer and friendlier place for your child. Remember that when children are well and comfortable, they learn more.

What We Can Do to Help Our Children Learn:

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