The 10 best ways to keep your kids healthy in 2013

Each New Year we all wish for the best of health for ourselves, family and friends. Being healthy provides us protection against disease and injury, as well as strength and energy to help us have a good quality of life.

Pediatricians at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics (ACHP) offer the top 10 things you can do to help keep your kids healthy and safe all year long. And adults can benefit from the tips too.

1) Establish a bedtime routine and sleep schedule.

Children need sound, uninterrupted sleep to grow, develop and function properly. And establishing a strict sleep schedule for naps and nighttime is important too.

The schedule should be in sync with the child’s natural biological rhythms (internal clock or circadian rhythm) of alertness and sleepiness. Keep in mind this is altered when the time changes each spring and fall. Sleep guidelines are:

  • Newborn: 16-17 hours
  • Toddler: 12-15 hours, including naps
  • Elementary-school age: 12-13 hours
  • Middle-school age: 10-11 hours
  • Teenage: 9 hours
  • Adult: 8 hours

2) Ensure your child eats plenty of healthy food and drinks water every day.

Guidelines in the 5-2-1-Almost None formula, recommended by dietitians, have been shown to help people prevent obesity, maintain a healthy weight, and improve their overall well-being. The guideline recommends:

  • 5: eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • 2: limiting screen time to no more than 2 hours a day
  • 1: getting 1 or more hours of physical activity every day
  • almost none: drinking almost no sugary beverages

Dr. Natalie Jedacek suggests families in her practice at ACHP Medina to slightly modify this guideline with tips for numbers 4 and 3 based on age:

  • For teens: 4 servings of dairy
  • For preteens: 3 servings of dairy products

3) Get your kids moving.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) offers these activity guidelines for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers:

Age Minimum Daily Activity Comments
Infant No specific requirements Physical activity should encourage motor development
Toddler 11/2 hours 30 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes unstructured physical activity (free play)
Preschooler 2 hours 60 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes unstructured physical activity (free play)
School age 1 hour or more Break up into bouts of 15 minutes or more


4) Limit screen time on the Internet, TV, online gaming or messaging.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1-2 hours of quality TV and videos a day for older children and no screen time for children under the age of 2. Parents should also keep TVs, VCRs, video games and computers out of children’s bedrooms.

5) Smoking and tobacco: keep away from smokers.

While secondhand smoke has been tied to numerous health hazards, its impact on children with asthma can be particularly dangerous.

In this Children’s Channel video podcast, Heather Strawbridge, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at Akron Children’s Hospital, discusses how this risky habit can trigger asthma attacks and other complications in children with asthma, as well as what you can do to protect your kids from these ill effects.

Tobacco use in teens
While cancer is probably the best known health threat related to smoking, there are many other physical consequences facing teens and other smokers. In this Children’s Channel video podcast, Nneka Holder, MD, an adolescent medicine specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital, also discusses yellow teeth, wrinkled skin and other ways tobacco ages the appearance.

6) Promote good personal habits: hand washing, cover cough, use tissues, etc.

Good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses, from the common cold to more serious illnesses such as meningitis, bronchiolitis,flu, hepatitis A, and most types of infectious diarrhea. Don’t underestimate the power of hand washing! The few seconds you spend at the sink could save you trips to the doctor’s office.

In this Children’s Channel video podcast, Lori Celik, Akron Children’s Hospital’s School Health Services, offers some helpful hints to make hand washing a fun and effective part of a family’s daily regimen.

Try this fun experiment to show kids how well they are washing:

  • Mix about 1 teaspoon of glitter with about ¼ cup Vaseline and spread about a pea-size amount on hands.
  • Wash hands with soap and water.
  • Look for traces of glitter to see how well the hands were washed.

7) Get checkups as recommended.

Immunizations, lab work and nagging questions about your child’s health are all great reasons to schedule a well visit.

In this Children’s Channel video podcast, Natalie Jedacek, MD, Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics Medina office, discusses the impact of these trips to the doctor’s office on a child’s growth and development.

Frequency of well-visits:

  • Every 2 months until 1 year old
  • At 15 months old,  18 months old, 24 months old
  • At Preschool-age
  • Yearly once 2 years old

8) Get recommended immunizations.

Immunization is not only good for your child, it’s good for all of us. If parents didn’t have their children immunized, we’d be back to fighting epidemics.

And it’s a key component of preventive medicine. You’re giving your child protection from diseases that otherwise might bring pain, permanent damage or even death.

Pediatrician P. Cooper White, MD, FAAP, director of the Locust Pediatric Care Group at Akron Children’s Hospital, discusses the importance of making sure a child’s immunizations are up-to-date as she returns to school.

9) Keep unnecessary stress to a minimum.

Creating a loving and supportive environment helps youngsters handle the stress of making friends, succeeding in school, dealing with peer pressure and many other childhood situations.

Just like adults, children handle stress in different ways and they can become ill if the stress is too intense or long-lasting.

Our stress and coping center offers some tips.

10) Protect from hazards inside the home, such as unsafe cleaning products, medicines, swimming pools, sharp tools, and unsafe furnishings.

Children are curious by nature. And while it’s important to nurture your child’s curiosity, you need to take steps to keep kids safe while they learn and explore. When it comes to medications, keep them “Up and Away and Out of Sight,” which is the name of a national education program.

The number of accidental drug overdoses in young children has increased by 20 percent in recent years, according to the CDC. Learn more tips here.

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