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Building Blocks For Healthy Children

By Ann Douglas


(NC)-Ann Douglas is a mother of four and the author of the popular Mother of All series, including The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, The Mother of All Baby Books, The Mother of All Toddler Books, The Mother of All Parenting Books and The Mother of All Pregnancy Organizers.

Sadly for many new parents, babies don't come with a book of instructions.

When it comes to figuring out the do's and don'ts of caring for a newborn, - it's pretty much a case of learn as you go, and hope for the best. Advice from well-meaning friends and family can certainly help, but I still get questions from lots of new parents about the babycare basics

Luckily, there are a few key building blocks that can have a potentially big impact on the overall health and well-being of children. Put them together, and they can build a solid foundation for the future.


I'll never forget the scary moments when my third child was rushed to the hospital with a high fever that was eventually diagnosed as viral meningitis. He was lucky - he didn't have any lasting effects from his illness, and is now a healthy and happy 14-year-old. There are other infectious diseases, however, that can be deadly, and are preventable.

Today, parents in Canada have access to a host of vaccines - the tools needed to help prevent serious illnesses, including pneumococcal disease, meningitis and chicken pox. As a parent, you want to do everything you can to ensure your child's health. Immunization is one of the best strategies to prevent serious illnesses before they happen. Parents should speak with their doctor about the routine immunization schedule, including new vaccines like Prevnar.

Healthy Eating

The number of children who are overweight or obese is reaching unprecedented levels - between 1981 and 1996, the number of overweight boys tripled and overweight girls doubled. One recent study of Nova Scotia grade five children found that 32.9% were overweight and 9.9% obese. Obese children often grow up to be obese adults - and potential victims of a number of obesity-related diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. Smart eating can help our children stay within a healthy weight range.

Quick Tips

. Eat together as a family

- Can increase the odds that your kids are eating healthier meals

- Can help you encourage eating the five servings of fruits and vegetables encouraged by Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating

. Start a habit of regular, healthy meals and snacks

- Make breakfast a priority

- Try cheese and crackers, a fruit smoothie or a bowl of cereal for a quick, healthy snack

Physical Fitness

Gone are the days we parents remember of running around outside until the streetlights went on. Canadian kids today are a more sedentary lot, with frequent television watching and the rising popularity of computer games each contributing to the problem. Getting fit can be beneficial for the entire family - and can be a great habit for kids to develop early on to set them up for a healthier life.

Quick Tips

. Commit to being more active as a family

. Make it fun! Throw a frisbee or play tag - as long as the heart rate increases, it counts as exercise

. Go for a walk - in your neighbourhood or the local museum - wherever your legs can take you

. Hit the pool for added fun - think water volleyball, underwater tag, basketball - all with the added bonus of making a splash together

. Make family exercise a habit - it will take time, but once it becomes an established routine, the whole family will look forward to having this active time together


Frequent hand-washing is a well-established strategy for keeping illness at bay. Teaching your children to wash their hands regularly can help them stay healthy.

Wash your hands:

. Before, during and after food preparation

. Before eating, and after using the bathroom

. After handling animals or animal waste

. When hands are dirty

. Frequently when someone in the home is sick

Together, immunization, healthy eating, physical activity and hand-washing are four of the essential building blocks for helping children prevent illness and stay healthy. Now, if only someone could figure out the new baby instruction manual.

- News Canada



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