Want to support your kindergartner's physical health? Here are some tips that experts suggest.
Model good behavior
School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, so it's especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Try to organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as after-dinner walks or raking leaves.
Sports and lessons
Explore age-appropriate lessons and sports for your kindergartner. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer lessons.
Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.
Make sure that your child has plenty of opportunities to play outside. Take advantage of local parks and playgrounds as much as possible. Outdoor play allows children to participate in a variety of healthy physical activities and also offers valuable non-physical benefits. It can foster cognitive and emotional development, by encouraging children to test their limits and explore unfamiliar pieces of equipment. Interacting with other children at parks and playgrounds also helps develop important social skills.
Emphasize safety to your child. Teach him to be vigilant when crossing the street and to play safely around cars. Show him how important it is to play safely with other children and on playground equipment, for example by avoiding falling on their neck and head.
By the time they reach kindergarten most children are taking a more active role in their personal hygiene. However, parents should remain involved and supervise bath time to ensure that everything is being cleaned effectively.
The precise age at which children are ready to bathe or shower on their own varies from child to child. Often, children will indicate that they are ready for more privacy and would prefer to start washing themselves, but the transition is usually gradual and parents will still need to weigh in with advice or to check that everything has been properly cleansed. Some children, especially girls with long hair, might still require help with shampooing or rinsing out conditioner even after they have mastered washing the rest of their body. As children start bathing on their own, be patient as they learn the ropes and allocate extra time if necessary for bath time.
Most children do not need to wash their hair every day. How often your child's hair needs to be washed will depend on a number of factors, including hair length, your child’s activity level, and whether the hair is curly or straight
Make sure that your child understands the importance of washing hands and the connection between cleanliness and staying healthy. Don't rely too much on hand sanitizers and instead make sure your child knows how to wash their hands effectively with soap and water. Teach your child to wash hands:
- after using the bathroom
- before eating
- before and after handling or preparing food
- after coming in from outside
- after blowing their nose or sneezing
- before and after visiting sick friends or relatives
- after touching cats, dogs, and other animals
- after touching garbage
Coughing and sneezing
Teach your child to sneeze or cough, not into their hand, but into the crook of their arm.
Teach your child not to pick their nose or bite their nails.
Make sure your child understands the connection between good hygiene and good health. Explain the importance of not sharing drinking containers and straws, for example, with other kids at school.
Your child should see a dentist for regular checkups, just as your child sees a pediatrician regularly. Discuss your child's oral hygiene with their dentist and ask about measures such as dental sealants, which protect your child's teeth against cavities and decay.
Good teeth habits
Developing good oral hygiene habits is important, even if your child still has only baby teeth. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and causing problems with eating, speaking, and learning.
Brush twice a day
By kindergarten children should be brushing their teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.
Although your child should be able to brush their teeth on their own by now, your child will still need help to make sure that their teeth are thoroughly cleaned. Parents should continue to be responsible for overseeing brushing and flossing before bedtime.
Children should start flossing on a daily basis once their teeth fit closely together. They will usually need some help with this until then are seven years old or even older.
See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children ages 5-14 and left untreated can result in severe complications.
Find out if the water where you live has added fluoride and, if it is not, ask your dentist about strategies for protecting your child's teeth. Use a fluoride toothpaste but only in small, pea-sized amounts.
Sugar, juice and soft-drinks & soda
- Limit your child's consumption of sugary or sticky foods, which are the main culprits in tooth decay. Teach your child to use their tongue to clean off their teeth immediately after they have eaten foods that stick to their teeth.
- Limit juice consumption to mealtimes and dilute sweet juices with water to cut down on their sugar content.
- Avoid or severely restrict consumption of soft drinks and sodas.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Dr. Jayne Greenberg, District Director, Miami-Dade County Public Schools.