The Active Toddler

Physical activity is important for children of all ages. Of course, it may seem that your own toddler gets all the exercise he needs as he’s constantly on the move from sunup to bedtime. He’s crawling, walking, learning to run and jump, climbing onto and down from furniture without help, and kicking a ball or pulling toys behind him while walking.

By 2 to 3 years of age, your child’s physical activity will move to even more challenging levels. As his coordination keeps improving, he’ll be able to walk up and down stairs. He’ll run easily and start learning to pedal a tricycle. With his short attention span, he may be moving from one activity to the next, almost minute by minute, keeping you on the run just to stay up with him.

We can’t overemphasize how important this active play is. To encourage it in your toddler, you should be discouraging him from watching TV. The AAP believes strongly that children up to 2 years should not be watching any TV, choosing instead to participate in supervised physical activity outdoors and indoors. Encourage them to play with siblings or other children their own age. When planning family activities, make them as active as possible.

You can also promote physical activity by using the stroller judiciously. When you’re out for a walk, don’t automatically sit your toddler in the stroller for the entire trip. Let him get out and walk beside you if that’s what he wants to do.

If your toddler attends child care, find out how active he is there. In too many child care settings, the TV set and not the kids gets a real workout during the day. Safety should also be a big concern while your toddler is in the child care setting whether he’s playing or eating. Request that he always be seated while being fed, rather than running around with food in his mouth on which he could end up choking.


Source: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity: A Road Map to Health (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


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The Transition from High School to College

Academically, the step up from high school to college isn’t as steep as previous transitions may have been. Unless a student takes on an unusually heavy course load, the demands aren’t markedly different from before.

What is different, and what can trip up first-year students, is the atmosphere in which learning and studying take place. College affords young people a level of autonomy they’ve never experienced before. And if they’re attending a college away from home, they don’t have Mom and Dad standing sentinel outside their bedroom door to order them back inside to study for tomorrow’s midterm exam. Most students have the self-discipline to make the adjustment without too much difficulty, but others get swept up in the social whirl of college life.

“We see it here at the University of North Carolina,” says Dr. William Lord Coleman, an associate professor of pediatrics at UNC’s School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. “Kids go downhill or drop out because they can’t get organized enough to forget about the beer-keg party on a Sunday afternoon and go to the library like they’re supposed to.”

Colleges, recognizing the potential perils of youngsters living on their own for the first time, usually insist that new undergrads spend their first year or two living in the residential halls. A 1998 study from the Harvard School of Public Health painted a disturbing portrait of alcohol abuse among U.S. college students. Forty-two percent were found to indulge in binge drinking, which is defined as consuming five drinks in one sitting for men, and four drinks for women.

By far, the highest rate of excessive drinking was among fraternity and sorority members: a staggering 84 percent. The second highest rate, 54 percent, was among school athletes. Third highest were students living in coed dorms: 52 percent. Interestingly, the rate of binge drinking among students living in off-campus housing or in single-sex dorms was lower than the overall average: 40 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

You might want to consider steering an impressionable youngster away from schools with reputations for heavy partying. Believe it or not, every year the Princeton Review ranks the top ten party colleges in the United States, based on surveys distributed to hundreds of thousands of students.

Monitoring College Students From A Distance

Short of secretly taking up residence in an adjacent dorm room, what can parents do to keep tabs on a son or daughter living away from home? Dr. Coleman recommends “the age-old wisdoms: Call regularly, encourage visits home whenever possible and visit your youngster more frequently than just on Parents’ Day. Also, if you can, get to know the parents of the roommate or suite mates. If necessary, you can do a little networking together behind the scenes.”

If you suspect that your youngster is having difficulty adapting to college (homesickness, for example, is common among students living away from home for the first time), encourage him to speak to a counselor at the student health service. If you’re truly worried about his welfare, make the call yourself and ask one of the mental-health professionals there to pay a visit to your youngster or invite him down to talk.


Source: Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


BACK TO SCHOOL: Tips for Your Family

back to school concept. hand draw with color pencils.

​​​The following health and safety tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Backpack Safety

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
  • Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10% to 20% of your child’s body weight. Go through the pack with your child weekly, and remove unneeded items to keep it light.
  • Remind your child to always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
  • Adjust the pack so that the bottom sits at your child’s waist.
  • If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs, they may be difficult to roll in snow, and they may not fit in some lockers. And review backpack safety with your child.

Eating During the School Day

  • Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy. Some schools provide breakfast for children; if yours does not, make sure they eat a breakfast that contains some protein
  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and/or have them posted on the school’s website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Many children qualify for free or reduced price food at school, including breakfast. The forms for these services can be completed at the school office. Hunger will affect a child’s performance in class.
  • Many school districts have plans which allow you to pay for meals through an online account. Your child will get a card to “swipe” at the register. This is a convenient way to handle school meal accounts.
  • Look into what is offered inside and outside of the cafeteria, including vending machines, a la carte, school stores, snack carts and fundraisers held during the school day. All foods sold during the school day must meet nutrition standards established by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). They should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100% fruit juice. Learn about your child’s school wellness policy and get involved in school groups to put it into effect. Also, consider nutrition if you child will be bringing food to eat during school.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options (such as water and appropriately sized juice and low-fat dairy products) to send in your child’s lunch.

Before & After School Child Care

  • During early and middle childhood, children need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and supervise them after school until you return home from work.
  • If a family member will care for your child, communicate the need to follow consistent rules set by the parent regarding schedules, discipline and homework.
  • Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age.
  • If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children from a distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.
  • If you choose an after-school program for your child, inquire about the training of the staff. There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, trained persons to address health issues and emergencies, and the rooms and the playground should be safe.

Develop a Sleep Routine

  • Getting enough sleep is critical for a child to be successful in school. Children who do not get enough sleep have difficulty concentrating and learning as well as they can.
  • Set a consistent bedtime for your child and stick with it every night. Having a bedtime routine that is consistent will help your child settle down and fall asleep. Components of a calming pre-bedtime routine may involve a bath/shower, reading with them, and tucking them in and saying good-night to them.
  • Have your child turn off electronic devices well before bedtime.
  • Try to have the home as quiet and calm as possible when younger children are trying to fall asleep.
  • Insufficient sleep is associated with lower academic achievement in middle school, high school and college, as well as higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness. The optimal amount of sleep for most younger children is 10-12 hours per night and for adolescents (13-18 year of age) is in the range of 8-10 hours per night.

Developing Good Homework & Study Habits

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework starting at a young age. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
  • Schedule ample time for homework; build this time into choices about participation in after school activities.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time.
  • Supervise computer and Internet use.
  • By high school, it’s not uncommon for teachers to ask students to submit homework electronically and perform other tasks on a computer. If your child doesn’t have access to a computer or the internet at home, work with teachers and school administration to develop appropriate accommodations.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive.
  • If your child is struggling with a particular subject, speak with your child’s teacher for recommendations on how you or another person can help your child at home or at school. If you have concerns about the assignments your child is receiving, talk with their teacher.
  • If your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, discuss this with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or health care provider.
  • For general homework problems that cannot be worked out with the teacher, a tutor may be considered.
  • Some children need extra help organizing their homework. Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help overcome homework problems.
  • Some children may need help remembering their assignments. Work with your child and their teacher to develop an appropriate way to keep track of their assignments – such as an assignment notebook.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2017). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


BACK TO SCHOOL: Traveling To & From School

Review the basic rules with your student and practice any new routes or modes of transportation:

School Bus

  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see her, too).
  • Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required. Encourage your child to actually practice how to cross the street several times prior to the first day of school.
  • Your child should not move around on the bus.
  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. (If your child’s school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school system to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts).
  • Check on the school’s policy regarding food on the bus. Eating on the bus can present a problem for students with allergy and also lead to infestations of insects and vermin on the vehicles.
  • If your child has a chronic condition that could result in an emergency on the bus, make sure you work with the school nurse or other school health personnel to have a bus emergency plan, if possibly, prior to the first day of class

Car

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt or use an age- and size-appropriate car seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, not the stomach.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations even when using hands-free devices or speakerphone, texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction.. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process.

Bike

  • Practice the bike route to school before the first day of school to make sure your child can manage it.
  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic and ride in bike lanes if they are present.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

Walking to School

  • Children are generally ready to start walking to school at 9 to 11 years of age.
  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school. In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision. If the route home requires crossing busier streets than your child can reasonably do safely, have an adult, older friend or sibling escort them home.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them or have another adult walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely. If your child will need to cross a street on the way to school, practice safe street crossing with them before the start of school.
  • Bright-colored clothing or a visibility device, like a vest or armband with reflectors, will make your child more visible to drivers.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2017). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Nutrition and Exercise During Pregnancy

During pregnancy it is important that you get the appropriate nutrients and energy needed to keep you and your baby healthy. Physical activity is also just as important when you’re pregnant as at any other time of life.

NUTRITION

Follow your obstetrician’s advice regarding your use of prenatal vitamins. As mentioned, you should take vitamins only in the doses recommended by your doctor. Perhaps more than any other single vitamin, make sure you have an adequate intake (generally, 400 micrograms a day) of folic acid, a B vitamin that can reduce the risk of certain birth defects, such as spina bifida. Your obstetrician may recommend a daily prenatal vitamin pill, which includes not only folic acid and other vitamins, but also iron, calcium, and other minerals, and the fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA). Fatty acids are “good” fats, and DHA in particular accumulates in the brain and eyes of the fetus, especially during the last trimester of pregnancy. These fatty acids are also found in the fat of human breast milk. Make sure your doctor knows about any other supplements you may be taking, including herbal remedies.

EATING FOR TWO

When it comes to your diet, do some planning to ensure that you’re consuming balanced meals. Make sure that they contain protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. This is no time for fad or low-calorie dieting. In fact, as a general rule, you need to consume about 300 more calories per day than you did before you became pregnant. You need these extra calories and nutrients so your baby can grow normally.

EXERCISE

Physical activity is just as important when you’re pregnant as at any other time of life. Discuss a fitness program with your doctor, including fitness DVDs or videotapes that you’ve found of interest. Particularly if you haven’t been exercising regularly, your doctor may suggest a moderate walking or swimming regimen, or perhaps prenatal yoga or Pilates classes. Don’t overdo it. Take it particularly slowly during the first few workouts—even just five to ten minutes a day is beneficial and a good place to start. Drink plenty of water while working out, and avoid activity with jumping or jarring movements.


Source: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

The Benefits of Well-Child Pediatrician Visits

Here are some of the benefits of well-child pediatrician visits:

Prevention. Your child gets scheduled immunizations to prevent illness. You also can ask your pediatrician about nutrition and safety in the home and at school.

Tracking growth and development. See how much your child has grown in the time since your last visit, and talk with your doctor about your child’s development. You can discuss your child’s milestones, social behaviors and learning.

Raising concerns. Make a list of topics you want to talk about with your child’s pediatrician such as development, behavior, sleep, eating or getting along with other family members. Bring your top three to five questions or concerns with you to talk with your pediatrician at the start of the visit.

Team approach. Regular visits create strong, trustworthy relationships among pediatrician, parent and child. The AAP recommends well-child visits as a way for pediatricians and parents to serve the needs of children. This team approach helps develop optimal physical, mental and social health of a child.


Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2017). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

How to Build an Essential Summer First Aid Kit

Every year the summer arrives with full force in my ER: cuts, ticks, poison ivy, infected bug bites, sunburns, eye injuries, broken bones, and all other kinds of summer fun gone wrong. Luckily, you can easily treat or prevent much of the summer craziness if you are prepared.

Being prepared means you need a “Dr. Mom” first aid kit and know how to use it. Although pre-made store-bought first aid kits are a good start, these kits typically lack many items you’ll need for your family.
Shopping List for Your Summer First Aid Kit

So to help you get ready, I have prepared a shopping list below for your summer first aid kit. Get it built now, so that you spend your summer having fun, not in the ER.

  • Pre-made first aid kit: It’s cheapest and easiest to start by buying a pre-made kit, because otherwise it is difficult to find small packages of all the different kinds of gauze, tape, and antibiotic ointment you will need. Find a large kit with a sturdy container with extra space to hold all the things you will add to it. Or, get a small duffle bag or backpack to hold your first-aid kit, and start by putting the pre-made kit in the bag. Be sure the pre-made kit includes Band-Aids, gauze, tape, antibiotic ointment, and anti-itch or steroid ointment.
  • Water bottle for cleaning out wounds: The first thing you’ll need to do with a crying kid is clean out their wound. And the nearest water source is probably too far to walk. You can use your water bottle to treat dehydration, too.
  • Benadryl (Diphenhydramine): Benadryl is probably the most important over-the-counter medication to have in your first aid kit—it’s a first line treatment for insect bites, hives, and other allergic reactions that can be deadly. Some premade kits will include Benadryl tablets, but if you have young children be sure to include a bottle of liquid, Children’s Benadryl or the generic equivalent. Benadryl is also a great treatment for an attack of seasonal allergies.
  • EpiPen: If you have a family member with a history of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), ask your physician for a prescription. I keep mine in the outside pocket of my first aid kit for quick, easy access.
  • Numbing spray: Wound numbing spray can be purchased over-the-counter at any pharmacy and can really save-the-day when a child is burned, sunburned, or has a painful cut or scrape.
  • Prescription medication: Ask your physician for an extra prescription for any medication you use frequently, especially asthma and allergy medications. Keep the extra supply in your car first-aid kit. You’ll be grateful when you can stay at your child’s sporting event rather than head home for an inhaler or other medication.
  • Ibuprofen and Tylenol: Most pre-made kits include these standard pain medications, but you will have to add the liquid kind for children.
  • Dramamine, nausea medication: There’s an easy fix for vomiting, car sick kids—nausea medication. Don’t leave home without it. You’ll kick yourself for not having it while you clean the vomit out of your car.
  • Sunblock: The worst sunburns occur when you least expect it—at sports events, or while doing yard work. Have some 30+ sunblock ready to cover those little spots on your ears and neck that your hat doesn’t cover. Include some SPF lip balm or ChapStick, too.
  • Bug spray: The best protection comes from a repellant that contains 30% DEET. Insect bites are annoying at best, but at worst they get scratched and infected. We are seeing a growing number of insect bites that become infected with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA, which is difficult to treat.
  • Afrin nasal spray for nosebleeds: Although I generally don’t recommend Afrin nasal spray for congestion related to allergies or illness, Afrin is a quick fix for a nosebleed. This medication causes the capillaries in the nose to constrict, thereby limiting the blood flow to the nasal mucosa and stopping the bleeding.
  • Hydrocortisone ointment: This inexpensive over-the-counter medication will treat almost anything that itches—insect bites, poison ivy, etc. If you stop the itch, the kids won’t scratch, and you reduce the risk of secondary infection.
  • Flashlight/headlamp: If you don’t have a reliable light on your cell phone, include an LED flashlight or headlamp. You can buy these very affordably now, even at the dollar store. A flashlight is not just for nighttime injuries—you’ll need a bright light to get a good look at splinters, or look in kids’ mouths, ears, etc.
  • Baby wipes: Even if your kids are out of diapers, a pack of baby wipes is infinitely useful in the car, especially for keeping hands clean and wiping noses.
  • ChapStick: ChapStick or lip balm can sooth cold sores, lip injuries, and sunburned lips in addition to regular chapped lips. You’ll be glad you have it when you child complains about their chapped lips for the sixth time in ten minutes while you are on a family outing.
  • Clean towel: A nice clean towel is perfect for setting up your first-aid station while you dress a wound or remove a splinter. It’s also useful for containing bleeding on bigger injuries. Consider a highly absorbent microfiber towel that can be stuffed into a small space.
  • Feminine hygiene supplies: Besides their obvious uses, tampons and maxi pads are very helpful for wound management and are an essential part of any first aid kit. Did you know that the modern tampon was invented in the 1800’s for management of bullet wounds? An OB-style tampon can very effectively treat a persistent nosebleed. The smallest OB tampons fit nicely in the nose. Bleeding wounds can be easily controlled with a maxi-pad held in place with an ace wrap.
  • Premade finger splint: Not sure if that finger is broken or not? Just put it in a pre-made finger splint until you get your child to the doctor. You can buy premade finger splints at any pharmacy.
  • Alcohol wipes: I mostly use these for sterilizing my first aid kit instruments, such as tweezers and scissors. They are also useful for cleaning skin before trying to remove splinters.
  • ACE bandage: Although a first line treatment for sprains and strains, ACE bandages are also useful for holding bandages in place on bigger wounds, and holding splints on fractures.
  • Small scissors: For cutting dressings to the right size, cutting medical tape, opening packages, trimming fingernails and hangnails, etc.
  • A bottle of Gatorade: Very useful for hypoglycemia, dehydration, etc. Also useful as an occasional bribe for an over-tired, hungry child.
  • Ziploc bags: Ziplocs are essential for keeping track of teeth that fall out or are knocked out. Did you pull a tick off your child? Stick it in the Ziploc bag for later identification. Certain kinds of ticks are more likely to carry pathogens that cause Lyme disease and other illnesses.
  • Tweezers & small magnifying glass: I mostly use these for removing splinters, but occasionally they are necessary to remove bugs from ears, fishing hooks from fingers, etc. Of note, tweezers are NOT the best way to remove a tick—tweezers often cause you to remove the tick body and leave the head in the skin. The best way to remove a small deer tick is to scrape it off with a credit card. You can clean the credit card first with your alcohol wipes. Here’s more on how to remove a tick.

Keep Your First Aid Kit in Your Car

You’ll never have to remember to pack it. If you need something while you are at home, just go out and get it. If you have more than one family car, consider making a first aid kit for each car.

From HealthChildren.org. Copyright © 2014 Kathleen Berchelmann M.D., FAAP. Kathleen Berchelmann, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician at Mercy Children’s Hospital, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The University of Missouri School of Medicine, and an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Kathleen and her husband are raising six children.

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Physical Activity = Better Health

Pediatricians continue to be disturbed by the trends they’re seeing in the levels of physical activity of children, which appear to be headed in the wrong direction. One survey concluded that less than 25% of children in grades 4 through 12 participate in 20 minutes of vigorous activity or 30 minutes of any physical activity per day. Particularly with weight management as a goal, those numbers aren’t good enough.

Not only will regular physical activity help your child lose weight and maintain that weight loss, but it has many other benefits. For example, if your child exercises regularly, he’ll have

  • Stronger bones and joints
  • Greater muscle strength
  • A decrease in body fat
  • Improved flexibility
  • A healthier cardiovascular system (thus reducing his risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure)
  • A reduced likelihood of developing diabetes
  • More energy
  • A greater ability to handle stress
  • Improvements in self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Greater social acceptance by physically active peers
  • Opportunities to make new friends
  • Better concentration at school

Getting Started

You should have a clear picture of your child’s activity level—and whether he needs to change course. Is he watching too much TV? Is he spending too little time playing outdoors after school or on weekends?

As a parent, you need to help your overweight child get moving. To repeat, he should be doing some physical activity every day. In fact, it should become as routine a part of his life as brushing his teeth and sleeping.

So where should you begin? How much time does your child need to spend being active and how intense does this activity need to be?

The answers to these questions may be different for your child than it is for another boy or girl. If your overweight youngster has been completely sedentary, with no PE classes at school, no outdoor play, no extracurricular physical activities, and hours of TV watching every day, his starting point should be different than that of a fairly active youngster. There are plenty of activities that he can choose from, and he should begin to slowly and gradually pick up the pace.

Let’s say that your child decides to try getting his physical activity by taking walks or hikes with an older sibling through a nearby park. If he is really out of shape or if he has trouble imagining doing any walking at all, encourage him to set a goal of walking for only 1 minute at a time (“Can you walk for just 60 seconds?”). Once he realizes that 1 minute is an attainable target, have him increase his walking sessions progressively, to 2 minutes each time, then 3 minutes, and so on, until he’s walking for 30 minutes or more. If your youngster is already in better shape, he may want to start with a 15-minute walk and then increase it in 5-minute increments to 20 minutes, 25 minutes, and beyond. The ultimate goal is to have him spend an hour being active each day.

To most of us, a minute or two of walking doesn’t sound like much. In fact, many adolescents and adults think that exercise doesn’t really count unless it’s intense and even hurts (as the cliché goes, “No pain, no gain”). But for a child trying to lose weight, every little bit of activity helps, whether it’s a short walk to the school bus stop or a climb up a flight of stairs at school. Ultimately, once your child gets into better shape, you can encourage him to increase the duration and intensity of his activity, but the most important thing is that he just get moving and do it regularly.


Source: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity: A Road Map to Health (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.