It’s hard to believe that I have been doing “First with Kids” for almost 20 years.  But time flies when you are having fun – and this week is my 1000th weekly piece on child health.  To commemorate this milestone, rather than focus on one topic, I thought I would share my top 10 tips for keeping your children healthy.

  • Tip #10: Don’t forget that infants need a safe sleep environment to reduce their risk of sudden unexpected infant death.  This means babies should be put to sleep on their backs in a crib free of clutter.
  • Tip #9: Practice good handwashing to prevent the spread of germs from one person to another.
  • Tip #8:  Try to stop smoking or at least reduce your children’s exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke at home or in the car to reduce the frequency of respiratory infections and breathing problems. 
  • Tip # 7:  Learn to read food labels, when available on the foods you buy, and teach your children to do the same.  Understanding food labels can help to ensure a healthy diet with adequate nutrients and appropriate calories for your entire family.
  • Tip #6:  To prevent obesity, limit the amount of daily video game and internet time – often spent sitting and sometimes snacking – to less than two hours, unless computer time is needed for schoolwork.
  • Tip #5:  To also help prevent obesity, encourage at least 60 minutes a day of physical activities, especially those that the whole family can enjoy and do together.
  • Tip #4:  Focus on and reinforce the skills and activities that your child does well – not those that they do wrong.  This can help promote your child’s self-esteem and self-worth and make them less prone to being bullied or teased. 
  • Tip #3:  Be good role models for your children.  Live and model the values you want your children to learn, such as reading to your children from infancy onward and avoiding their exposure to second hand smoke.
  • Tip #2:  Make safety a priority.  Examples include making sure the batteries are working in your home smoke detectors, insisting on proper car seats when traveling by car or helmets if by bike, and playing safe when participating in a sport or activity.
  • Tip #1 is of course to ensure the ongoing good health of all children by keeping all scheduled doctor and dentist appointments and making sure immunizations are up to date.

Of course there is one additional bonus tip:  Keep reading, watching and/or listening to “First with Kids.”  And keep sending me your suggestions so I can continue to make sure our region remains one of the healthiest and safest for our children and grandchildren for many years to come.

You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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