ABC's for Healthy Kids
Do you know the ABC's for strong, healthy kids?
Check back all through 2022 for new letters, blogs and activities. A new topic is introduced every two weeks.
Annual Well-Child Visits
Well-child visits or check-ups are regular appointments with your child’s healthcare provider to stay up to date on their health, including their physical, social, and emotional development. These visits are an opportunity to ask questions, stay current with vaccinations and medications, and address any potential health concerns early. Well-child visits are typically covered by insurance, including Washington Apple Health (Medicaid). If your child does not currently have insurance, you can learn more and sign up online.
Brush and Floss Daily
Dental health is a key piece of overall wellness. A healthy mouth and teeth help prevent other health problems, too. Childhood is a crucial time for building good habits like brushing and flossing every day. Even babies need dental care – be sure to get your baby in for a dental appointment by the time they are 1 year old, or when they get their first teeth. Learn more and find resources on our Dental Health page.
COVID and Flu Vaccines
COVID-19 vaccination is now available for children ages 5 and older, and vaccines are expected to become available for younger children in the future. Vaccination greatly reduces the likelihood of severe illness from a COVID infection. There is no cost for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Annual flu shots are available for children ages 6 months and older, and are recommended before or during flu season. It’s a good idea to get your flu shot and your child’s flu shot by the end of October.
Drink More Water
Hydration is a powerful tool for staying healthy. Water helps your body maintain temperature, process waste, cushion joints, and protect sensitive tissues. More water is needed when you’re physically active or when the weather is hot, but drinking plenty of water is important every day, regardless of your level of activity or the weather. Plain water is best, and sugary beverages like soda or energy drinks should be avoided or limited. Make sure children drink whenever they are thirsty, before and after physical activity, and around mealtimes. Learn more healthy tips from the 5210 Campaign.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of the vitamins and nutrients children need to grow and thrive. Looking for a good, healthy challenge? Try eating the rainbow! Find fruits and vegetables in every color to eat throughout the week. A mix of healthy food - fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, lean meat - can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and other long-term medical complications. Get some seasonal recipe ideas on our Fuel Facts page.
Focus on Physical and Mental Health
Keeping kids healthy includes their physical wellbeing through exercise, healthy diet, regular check-ups, vaccinations, and medications as needed. It also includes their mental and emotional wellbeing. Children of all ages can experience intense emotions, stress, and trauma. Don’t dismiss a young person’s mental health needs as trivial or temporary. Learn more about mental health and the impacts of adverse childhood experiences on our Trauma & Resilience page.
- Reading: "F is for Focus on Physical and Mental Health"
- Interactive: Activities to do with children
Get babies to sleep safely
Remember Safe Sleep ABCs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Baby should sleep: Alone, on their Back, in a Crib.
No loose blankets, pillows, crib bumpers or soft objects in the sleep area. Do share a room with baby for six months or longer, but don’t share a bed.
Products that may seem good for sleeping babies can be dangerous. Check www.cpsc.gov/Recalls and sort by the “Babies and Kids” category to see recalls. Even if the product has not been recalled, never leave a baby unattended in an inclined sleeper or lounger.
Have a Plan
You can’t plan for everything, but you can build some key plans to help your family better prepare for what life throws at you. Being clear with children about these plans can help prevent dangerous consequences in the event of an emergency. Consider planning ahead not only for emergencies, but also for difficult and high-stress times with babies and young children. Plan for household emergencies, larger emergencies, and for what steps your will take when you are overwhelmed as a parent or caregiver.
Inspect Your Nest
Checking your home for potential hazards is key to supporting the health and safety of children who live there. Make time to purge your home of potentially dangerous items by safely disposing of unwanted medications or unused cleaning products. Know what kids can access in your home and what potential hazards need to be addressed – sharp items, low outlets, fall hazards, long cords, and more. Make sure windows are secure to prevent children falling out, and that any pools or other water features are not accessible to young children without supervision.
Parenting can be stressful. Self-care is essential. It helps ensure you have the mental and emotional space to be there for your children, too. Remember, you’re modeling the practices you want them to learn, including how to interact with others and how to cope with failures, losses, or big feelings. Find strategies that work for you, whether it is deep breathing, exercise, or a hobby that helps center you.
If you are struggling with parenting, you are not alone. It’s not unusual to experience mental health challenges while pregnant, shortly after birth, and even years later as parents face both the joys and challenges that come with caring for children and teens. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
Keep it locked up
What do you have in your home that you wouldn’t want your child to get into? And are you sure they can’t get into it?
Even very young children can surprise you with their ingenuity in accessing items you thought were out of reach. As children get older, you may find you have tweens or teens who are interested in something that should stay out of their hands, such as alcohol or marijuana products, guns, or prescription medication that isn’t theirs.
Keeping things like medications, drugs, weapons and more locked up can prevent poisoning, injury or death.
Learn to Swim
Water safety and basic swimming skills are worth teaching children from a young age to help prevent drowning. Swimming lessons are not just for people who want to swim recreationally or competitively. Learning the basics of how to control your body in water is an important part of safety.
Remember that water safety is more than swimming – it's important to be vigilant whenever children are around water, and to make sure they wear life jackets. Keep in mind that cold water is dangerous, depth can be deceiving, and you should always make sure children wash well after swimming.
Move your body
The human body is meant to move. Exercise is linked to better sleep, mood, focus, and overall wellness. Most young children love to move, which is an opportunity to start building good habits. Encouraging children to move and exercise from an early age can pay off in their physical and mental health for the rest of their lives. There are so many ways to move your body. Stay positive and encourage kids and teens to learn what exercises they enjoy, and how to do them safely.
No Sunburns Allowed
Ultraviolet rays from sunlight can damage skin and eyes. Plan for sun protection when you and your family are outside.
Good ways to reduce sun exposure include moving to shaded areas, putting on sunscreen, and dressing in lightweight clothes that cover skin. Don’t rely on just one strategy to keep your family safe in the sun. Shade, sunscreen and style work best when you use them all together.
Open to New Things
Lifelong learning is good for growing brains as well as aging brains, so set your children up for healthy minds and bodies by being open to new topics and experiences.
Babies through elementary age, especially, are wired to be constantly learning new things. Structure and routine are helpful, but a lot of great learning happens when things don’t go to plan. Try to be flexible and adaptable. There are many resources to help you learn about new topics and have new experiences.
Prepare for Takeoff
The transition from childhood to adulthood always has its challenges. Help your children – and yourself – be ready for that change.
Take the time to talk with teens and young adults. Start early to build the skills and knowledge that will help them thrive on their next adventure. Give yourself, and them, time and understanding as you work through the changes in your relationship.
Helping them prepare for takeoff may seem overwhelming, but watching them fly is worth it.
Questions are Healthy
Kids’ curiosity is marvelous but can be a lot for parents to handle. Remember that questions – even the challenging ones – are an important part of your child growing and developing. Curiosity helps pave the way for problem-solving, creativity and resilience. Think about how you can handle difficult questions without discouraging children or shutting down the conversation. Help children learn how to get answers and encourage them to stay curious.
Ready for School
For learning to be as successful as possible, children and teens need to be safe and healthy.
Parents and caregivers can help them be ready for school by making sure they can get to and from school safely, that they have food and rest so they can focus, and that they get their regular check-up and routine immunizations.
- More reading: R is for Ready for School
- Interactive: Activities to do with children
Social Media Smarts
Social media can be a helpful tool, but also has risks. Teach kids to be safe in their online interactions.
Set rules and expectations for social media use before your kid makes their first account. Take time to learn about the platforms they use and how to stay safe. Keep an open conversation with your kids about social media, and make sure they know to bring concerns to an adult they trust.
Tough conversations are part of being a parent or caregiver, and while we can’t avoid them, we can approach them in a healthy way. Teach communication skills and model healthy conversations for children from the day they are born. Consider how to have age-appropriate conversations with your children, but don’t avoid hard topics. And think about what you want your child or teen to get out of a tough conversation before you sit down to have it. There are good resources to help, but remember, there is no perfect script.
How can the body build immunity without getting infected? Vaccines.
Think of vaccinating your child as giving their growing body the training it needs to defend itself in case they are exposed to a disease later. Keeping up with recommended vaccines for children helps their bodies build immunity against many diseases.
Wash Your Hands
Teaching kids to wash their hands well is one of the best ways to reduce germs, especially with all of the messes little hands get into. Washing your hands might seem like a simple thing, but remember that it is a skill and it has to be learned. Hands are an ideal place for germs to hitch a ride, so teaching kids to wash their hands is one of the best ways to keep them healthy. It may take time, patience and reinforcement to teach them well. Find what works for your kids, and stick with it.