8 essential health tips

Run wild
Encourage free play.
It’s good because: It’s an excellent form of exercise and gives your child the opportunity to explore her environment, be creative and to let her imagination run wild.
But will they do it? Childproof your home so that your child can play safely. Don’t fill your child’s day with structured activities, homework and chores. Make sure there is ample time for free play.

Go potty, kid
Children of all ages should go to the toilet as soon as they feel the urge.
It’s good because: Incontinence could be a problem because the sphincter of a young child has not developed fully. Delaying going to the toilet could also lead to constipation.
But will they do it? Allow your potty-trained toddler to sleep with a nappy. Explain the reason for regular toilet visits to your older child and make sure that teachers allow children to go to the toilet when they need to. Take regular breaks when travelling long distances.

Bedtime at 8
Children need at least nine hours sleep a night, and toddlers an extra hour during daytime.
It’s good because: It’s important for the bones to grow. A tired child can be a grumpy one, and lack of concentration can make it worse.
But will they do it? Batman must sleep too! Teach your child the “triggers” leading up to bedtime and stick to the routine: No more energetic activities after 6 pm; bathing, supper, brushing teeth and a bedtime story followed by zzzzzzz…..

Brush up on dental hygiene
Teeth should be brushed after breakfast and before bedtime.
It’s good because: Plaque can build up leading to tooth decay.
But will they do it? Clean your baby’s teeth with a damp cloth. Buy brushes with pictures of favourite characters for your toddler and experiment with different flavoured toothpastes. Make a star chart for your older child – one star for every time they brush.

Bubbling bathtime
Children should bath once a day.
It’s good because: Bathing is necessary to get rid of germs, bacteria and sweat, and to ensure personal hygiene.
But will they do it? Buy interesting bath toys, food colouring and bubble bath to make bathing fun. Show your older child pictures of the nasty bacteria and germs that lurk on the skin. This should be enough to motivate him to bath regularly! If this doesn’t work, use a star/reward chart. Always supervise young children.

Fun with friends
Encourage your child over the age of three to make friends.
It’s good because: Children learn important social skills.
But will they do it? Make sure that your child has opportunities to meet friends. Join a playgroup for pre-schoolers. Extra-curricular activities give your child the opportunity to interact with children with similar interests. Set an example - demonstrate good social skills such as empathy, consideration, communication and sharing when you interact with people.

Private parts should stay private
Children should be educated about sexual abuse and how to protect themselves.
It’s good because: All children are vulnerable to abuse, not only by strangers, but especially by people they know.
What you should do:
Teach your child that private parts should not be touched by anyone. Roleplay tricky situations. Make it safe for your child to speak to you and give them Childline’s number to keep.

Beware of water
Children under the age of five and all children who have not been trained in water safety should never be left unattended near water.
It’s good because: drowning accidents are common amongst children.
How to protect your child: Children should take swimming lessons from the age of four. Basic water safety can be taught at an earlier age but it is not a substitute for constant supervision. Swimming pools should be fenced off and young children should always be supervised near water – even a bucket of water poses a risk. - (Health24, updated February 2008)

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