Keeping Your Toddler Healthy

Health Advice for Parents of Toddlers:

  • Cut down on sugar by avoiding sweetened beverages, except on special days.
  • Limit juice to one-half cup per day or every other day of 100% fruit juice.
  • Don’t put juice or sweet drink in bottles.
  • Discontinue the bottle by 12 months of age.  Attempt to promote children to a cup (not a sippy cup) by age 18 months.
  • Find other ways to console a child besides candy.  (Note to parents: Granola bars are more like candy bars than “health food.”)
  • Keep offering vegetables.  Young children reject most foods on the first few tries; this behavior is not a sign of poor parenting.
  • Choose foods in which whole grain is the first ingredient.
  • Encourage breakfast.  Breakfast provides children with cognitive benefits and helps prevents obesity.  The number of toddlers reportedly consuming breakfast has dropped during the past two decades.
  • Limit eating in the car.  This promotes overconsumption because parents can’t keep track of what the child is eating, and it is unsafe, because parents behind the wheel can’t help a child who starts to choke.
  • Avoid overconsumption and underconsumption of milk.  Current guidelines call for toddlers to consume 15 – 24 ounces per day of milk; some children drink as much as 60 ounces per day. You can have too much of a good thing.

Activity Tips for Toddlers:

  • Applaud activity in children, and give them opportunities to be active.  Toddlers love routines; consider structured active time at a specific time during the day.
  • Toddlers should not be sedentary for more than an hour at a time, unless they are sleeping.
  • Create a safe area in the house where toddlers can be free to move, or take them to the zoo, park, or an indoor play area.
  • Encourage dancing and active play.
  • Avoid television watching for children under 2 years and limit it to less than 1 hour after 2 years.

Probing Questions for Parents:

  • Do you eat fruits and vegetables in front of your child?  A parent’s modeling of healthy eating can have a significant impact on a child’s eating.
  • Do you participate in active play with your child?  Do you have family meals, in which the parents and children together eat healthy foods?
  • Do you hide food from your children?  Do they find it?  Most parents try to hide food from children, but the effort often doesn’t succeed.

For more information on keeping your toddler active and healthy, visit the website of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education Guidelines for Children at: http://www.aahperd.org/naspe/standards/nationalGuidelines/ActiveStart.cfm