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Seven Ways to Raise a Healthy Toddler

As a parent, you are an important teacher of health care and health information for your toddler. Here are seven recommendations to help you succeed at this important job.

1. Make exploring safe

From the time your baby takes its first steps into toddler-hood, it will become increasingly mobile. That means the fun and excitement of exploring the home it has only been able to crawl around. Make sure to take extra measures to make your home safe. Block off stairs with a gate. Lock doors to dangerous places such as a basement or garage. Lock up medicine, household cleaners, and poisons. Put scissors and other sharp objects out of reach.

2. Get routine check-ups and vaccinations

Regular check-ups are important, even if your child seems in perfect health. It’s important for the pediatrician to detect possible problems early, as well as track your child’s growth and development. Keep a home record of your child’s check-ups and vaccinations to make sure they stay current.

3. Buckle 'em up

Protect your children by placing them in a car seat that is appropriate for their weight and height. Once they have outgrown car seats, they should sit in a booster seat using your car’s safety belt. For proper fit, the shoulder belt should fit across your child's shoulders, and the lap belt should lie flat and low across the hips.

4. Start using toothpaste sparingly!

Toddlers are enthusiastic brushers when encouraged. Especially once squeezing a tube of toothpaste is involved! Fluoridated toothpaste should be introduced at age two to three. Before that, help your toddler brush with a soft-bristled brush and water. When toothpaste is used, make sure your child uses no more than a pea-sized dab, and spits out the excess instead of swallowing after brushing.

5. Visit the pediatric dentist regularly

Regular dental visits help your child’s teeth and gums stay healthy. Teeth cleanings remove debris, and fluoride treatments strengthen the enamel. Hygiene instructions improve your child's brushing and flossing, leading to cleaner teeth and healthier gums. Your pediatric dentist will provide an ongoing assessment of your child's oral health to ensure strong and healthy teeth and gums.

6. Offer healthy food good for the entire body

Good nutrition is important for growing bodies as well as teeth. Make sure your child has a balanced diet, including one serving each of fruits and vegetables; breads and cereals; milk and dairy products; and meat, fish, and eggs. Limiting the servings of sugars and starches will also aid in protecting your child's teeth from decay. You can also ask your pediatric dentist to help you select foods that protect your child's teeth.

7. Court a love of exercise

Active kids are healthy kids. Children should participate in moderate to vigorous exercise for at least 60 minutes daily. Regular exercise boosts cardiovascular fitness and overall health. Help your kids be their healthiest by joining them in physical play. Tag, swimming, bicycling, and walking can all be enjoyed as a family.

“Child Development: Toddlers (1-2 years old).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/toddlers.html. Accessed 2013.

“Positive Parenting Tips.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. September 9, 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/index.html. Accessed 2013.

“Infant Car Seats.” March of Dimes. July 2011. www.marchofdimes.com/pnhec/30590_30599.asp.  Accessed 2013.

“Frequently Asked Questions for Parents.” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. http://www.mychildrensteeth.org/education/faq/. Accessed 2013.

“Regular Dental Visits.” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.http://d27vj430nutdmd.cloudfront.net/17249/64412/64412.3.pdf. Accessed 2013.

“Physical Activity for Everyone.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/children.html. Accessed 2013.

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