“What can I do?” is the pressing question for kids ages 6-7 years. They are continuously testing what their bodies can do, “How fast can I run?” or “How far can I kick this ball?” Their coordination and, consequently, confidence is improving. They want to be independent, but do not consistently make good decisions.
- Car: Use an appropriate-sized booster seat in the back seat of the car. Children should be in a booster between 4 and 8 years old, and 40-60 lbs. Seat belts alone should not be used until the belt fits securely across the child’s hips; and the belt should not come up on the stomach at all. The shoulder strap should cross at the collarbone, not the face or neck. (Note: Do NOT use products that adjust the shoulder strap on a car vehicle. Most children will not fit this size until about age 9.)
- Reinforce stranger safety (e.g., never opening the door to strangers, getting in stranger’s cars).
- Smoking: Make sure your home and cars are smoke-free zones. Also, check smoke alarms to ensure that they work properly, and change batteries annually.
- Water: Teach your child to swim. Do not allow children to swim unattended. Teach your child to put on sunscreen.
- Wear a helmet on all things a kid can ride (e.g., bicycles, tricycles, scooters, ATVs, as passengers on adult bicycles).
- Guns: Guns must be unloaded and locked. (Disturbing Fact: More children are killed from guns every year than are intruders.)
- Reinforce home safety rules: Don’t play with matches, electrical tools, etc. Teach emergency phone numbers (e.g., 911).
- Teach your child rules to getting to and from school safely, including pedestrian safety.
- Provide 3 meals and 2 nutritious snacks a day, breakfast is especially important for the school-aged child.
- Limit the number of fats and sweets your child gets in a day. In addition, your child does not need juice, it is essentially fruit sugar. If you choose to give juice to your child, do so in limited quantities (e.g., 4 oz a day). There is no place for soft drinks/soda in a child’s diet.
- You choose the menu. I am a firm believer in good nutrition at an early age to build good lifetime eating habits. Consider the fact that you are fueling your child’s growing brain. It is my opinion that we as a society are propagating this notion of “kid food” (e.g., mac n’ cheese, hot dogs, French fries, chicken nuggets). These “kid foods” have very little nutritional value. Instead, offer meats with good protein, fruits and vegetables with good vitamins, etc.
- Dairy products should be low in fat; this includes all milk. (If your pediatrician is concerned about your child failing to thrive, he or she may direct you otherwise.) All members in a family over the age of 2 should be drinking low fat milk.
- Eat meals together as a family, and turn OFF the television. Not only does eating together as a family develop good nutritional habits, it also has multiple lasting effects on the social support of a family.
- Model good eating habits.
- Keep in mind that it is very difficult to eat healthy when eating out (especially at fast food restaurants).
- Continue to brush twice a day (with a fluoridated toothpaste), and floss teeth once a day.
- Schedule an appointment to see a dentist every 6 months.
- Fluoride supplementation depends on the level of fluoride in the drinking water in the city where you live. (Your pediatrician or dentist can prescribe fluoride, if needed.)
- Media Exposure: Limit total media time (e.g., TV, movies, video games) to no more than 2 hours a day, ideally less than 1 hour. Check TV ratings and choose appropriate programs. Watch programs together so you can discuss them.
- Sexual Education: Answer questions at a level appropriate for your child’s understanding. Be direct and honest. You may want to have some age-appropriate sex education books or books about bodies to help answer questions.
- Social Interactions: Praise your child for accomplishments. Encourage your child to talk about feelings and experiences at school and with friends. Provide opportunities for your child to interact with other children and learn teamwork. Ensure that you know your child’s friends and their families.
- Learning Experiences: Read together. Listen as your child begins to read aloud. Visit libraries, parks, museums.
- Discipline: Set limits. Be consistent. Ensure your child knows the house rules (e.g., bedtime rules, respect for others). Teach consequences for unacceptable behavior. Set reasonable expectations. Teach how to resolve conflicts and handle anger.
- Chores: Give your child some age-appropriate chores and household responsibilities (e.g., help set the table, keep own room clean). Teach your child responsibility for personal belongings.
- School: Meet with your child’s teacher, become involved with school.