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General health guide for your child

3-minute read

Raising a child is challenging and it can be difficult to know what is best for your child’s health. Here is a general guide to help you help your child to grow and stay healthy.

Good health for your child starts with day-to-day lifestyle factors including making sure they get good nutrition and enough exercise.

In addition, your doctor and other healthcare professionals can help with vaccinations and regular check-ups.

Good nutrition

A healthy diet can help your child fight sickness and avoid obesity.

Ideally, children should eat food from the 5 food groups each day.

The 5 food group foods include fruits, vegetables, grain (cereal) foods, lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans and milk, cheese, yoghurt and their alternatives.

It is recommended that children should drink 5 glasses (age 5 to 8 years) to 7 glasses (age 8 to 12 years) of water a day.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating sets out the amounts of each of the 5 food groups that children should eat every day.

‘Sometimes foods’ — those that are high in fat, sugar and salt — should be limited to small amounts once a week. Eating these foods can increase the risk of your child developing tooth decay and becoming overweight.

Your child should develop healthy eating habits from an early age. For example, ‘sometimes foods’ are not usually appropriate as rewards, and healthy foods shouldn’t be used as a punishment.

You can talk to your children about nutrition from a very young age since they can eat the same meals as you once they are 12 months old.

Exercise

Play is a very effective form of exercise for children. Play helps build healthy bones and strong muscles. It also helps to develop your child’s imagination, improve physical skills such as balancing and social skills and teaches your child to share and take turns.

Children aged 1 to 5 years should be active for at least 3 hours every day and shouldn’t spend any more than 1 hour at a time being inactive, such as sitting in a car or watching TV. Play doesn’t need to be expensive. Children can use their imagination to turn everyday objects into toys.

Regular check-ups

A significant amount of growth and development occurs in the early years of your child’s life. Your child should have regular check-ups with your family doctor.

During the first 5 years of your child’s life they should have regular, scheduled appointments to monitor their growth and development. These checks should include measuring their weight and height, and checking their hearing and vision. The check-ups also provide an opportunity to ask a doctor any questions you may have about parenthood, child development and the general health of your child.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations are an important part of preventing serious illness of your child and other children in your community. Vaccines are simple, safe and effective. They develop the immune system and build resistance to infections. If a high proportion of people in a community is vaccinated, infections are less likely to spread.

Some vaccines for babies and young children are funded under the National Immunisation Program with a series of vaccinations beginning at the age of 2 months and continuing through to teenage years.

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Last reviewed: July 2019


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This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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