Make a Breast-Feeding Decision

Breast-feeding is a wonderful way for you and baby to bond while you give him or herthe most all-natural nutrition possible. But breast-feeding isn’t for everyone; it requires a lot of time, dedication, and devotion to healthy eating and all-hour feedings. Working with your doctor, make a decision about what’s best for you and your child.

Provide Natural Foods

Processed foods are often full of sugar, sodium, unhealthy fats, and calories. Avoid making meals for your children using the fake stuff, and opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean cuts of meat, fresh fish, poultry, and fiber-rich foods like beans and leafy greens. Grocery-shopping tip: Shop the perimeter of the store where the fresh foods are. Avoid the inside aisles where many of the processed foods reside.

Eat the Alphabet

Nearly all children get plenty of vitamins—A, B, C, D, etc.—in the foods they eat every day. A multivitamin is not generally necessary for children. Simply pack meals with vitamin-rich foods, and talk to your pediatrician about a daily multivitamin if you are concerned.

Avoid the “Clean Plate” Rule

Your grandmother had the best intentions for you when she wouldn’t let you leave the table before you finished your broccoli, but the truth is that your child knows when he or she is full and needs to stop eating. When children say they don’t want any more, they probably aren’t trying to skip out on their vegetables; their bodies are just letting them they’ve had enough. Overeating could lead to unwanted weight gain.

Get Them Off the Couch

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Currently, nearly one in five children is overweight or obese—compared to just one in 20 children 30 years ago. Physical activity is very important for children, as it sets the stage for a lifetime of health and nutrition. Public health experts recommend 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

Team or individual sports are a great way to encourage physical activity. Outside a structured sports setting, motivate your children to spend more time playing than sitting. Plan family activity nights or set up play dates with neighbors.

Baby Their Skin

Summers are for kids, but summer sun isn’t. Ultraviolet (UV) light can damage the skin and increase chances for developing skin cancer later in life. Babies younger than six months should avoid direct sunlight if at all possible. (If being in the sun is unavoidable, use sunscreen with formulas designed for babies or kids.) Babies over six months and all children should wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if your child is sweating or in the water.

Learn about the healthiest sunscreens for kids and babies.

Create a Healthy Smile

Good dental and oral health goes beyond a cavity-free set of chompers. Tooth decay, which affects more children than any other chronic infectious disease, is a serious concern for young kids. If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to problems with speaking and learning. Fluoride can almost completely eliminate tooth decay in young children. At each of their semiannual cleanings, your children should receive a fluoride treatment. If your tap water doesn’t have fluoride, ask your dentist about other ways to get fluoride.