Healthy eating, sleep and physical activity are all important parts of living healthy lives. Parents play a major role in supporting healthy behaviours and providing children opportunities for healthy active living.
In the digital age of technology, it's important to know how screen time, such as cell phones, computers, tablets and televisions, can impact healthy living.
Routine vaccinations are an important step in keeping your child healthy.
Ministry of Health legislation, the Child Care Early Years Act, and the Immunization of School Pupils Act requires public health to:
- Hold a vaccination record for each child attending licensed child care or school
- Review these files to make sure they're up-to-date
- Notify parents if immunization information is missing or incomplete
You work hard to protect your child every day. Did you know that public heath works to protect your child in the event of an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease?
That’s why your child’s vaccination record is so important. A vaccination record is either an immunization record (yellow card) or a valid exemption form. In an outbreak, these records tell us how to protect children at risk and minimize the spread of disease.
You'll need to maintain an up-to-date vaccination record for your child.
- Nutrition (six to 12 years)
As children grow older, they:
- Become more independent
- Want to choose their own foods
- Develop food likes and dislikes
- May go through phases where they refuse to eat certain foods
- Experience changes in their activity level, and growth spurts lead to changes in the amount of food they eat
Make mealtimes enjoyable
Mealtimes are more than just eating. They are a time to get together with family, build strong and positive relationships and make lifelong memories.
- Keep meal times pleasant and don't bribe or pressure your child to eat
- Allow your child to focus on what their tummy is telling them. Let children leave the table when they're full.
- Involve your child in meal planning, grocery shopping and preparing the meal
- Remove distractions at mealtime. Turn off the television and remove toys.
- Set a good example by enjoying a variety of healthy foods
Set regular meal and snack times
Set a regular time for meals and snacks every day and avoid frequent snacking throughout the day. Children like routine. Leaving space between eating allows your child to have an appetite for the next meal or snack. If they're always eating they may be full when you're expecting them to eat.
Set a good example by sitting down and eating with your child whenever possible.
- Limit sweets, salty snacks and highly processed foods, such as chocolate, candy, packaged snacks and frozen pizza
- Limit or avoid sweet beverages like juice
- Limit milk to no more than three cups per day since it may replace other important foods
- Offer water to satisfy thirst in between meals
- Never use food as a reward or punishment. This may lead to children ignoring their hunger and satiety cues, and may lead to negative attitudes about eating and poor eating habits.
- Respect your child's appetite and follow their hunger and fullness cues. Do not pressure them to eat more (or less) than they want.
Talk to a registered dietitian
For free and confidential information on nutrition and feeding (Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.), call TeleHealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.
Sleep plays an important role in your child's health, both physically and mentally. Their bodies and brains need to sleep after a busy day of activities. To enhance your child's sleep, consider the following:
- Six to 12 year olds need nine to 12 hours of sleep per night
- Have your child go to sleep at the same time every night. Consistency is key.
- Turn off all screens an hour before sleeping
- Avoid watching scary television shows or movies because these can make it hard to fall asleep
- Keep your child's bedroom a television and screen-free zone
- Screen time
Children's bodies and minds are still growing at this age. With today's amount of technology, it's important to find a balance to best navigate through the digital world.
Screen time refers to any time spent with any screen, including computers, televisions, smartphones, tablets, video games and wearable technology. It's recommended that children have no more than two hours per day of recreational screen time. This doesn't include time spent working on homework or other educational activities.
- Start a conversation about technology and screen time. Try to understand what your child likes and doesn’t like about screens.
- Teach children about safety and social media use
- Create a screen time family agreement with your children
- Be mindful of your own time on technology / screens
- Encourage turning off devices during family time and before going to bed
Offer children various screen-less activities that help to develop a healthy body and mind like:
- Going for a nature walk
- Cooking dinner as a family
- Hanging out with friends
- Going for a picnic
- Playing sports
- Reading a book
- Doing a puzzle
- Physical activity
Move more and sit less. Physical activity is an important part of children’s growth and development to build their strength, heart health and bone density. Making sure your children are physically active can have great health benefits and reduce their risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer, obesity, and heart disease.
When it comes to physical activity, Canada’s 24-Hour Movement Guidelines suggests children get:
- At least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity
- Muscle and bone strengthening activities at least three days a week
- Several hours of light movement throughout the day
- No more than two hours of recreational screen time a day
To motivate your kids to be active:
- Use exercise as transportation, such as walking or biking to school, a friend's house, or the park
- Make activities social and fun
- Include kids in household activities
- Encourage after school programs or joining sports teams
- Limit screen time