4 Tips for Healthy Development
1. Limit Screen Time:
In today’s world, technology is accessible everywhere and has something to offer to those of all ages. From cell phones to Ipads, to televisions, technology appears to be embedded into our surrounding environments. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 18 months should not be exposed to screen time. It should be limited to children as they age, with a recommendation of less than 1 hour per day for children ages 2-5. Excessive screen time is associated with decreased sleep, poor academic performance, higher chances of obesity, and impaired social behavior. Research shows that children 2 and under who are exposed to 30 minutes of screen time daily are 50% more likely to demonstrate expressive speech delay compared to children who have no screen time.
Promote Physical Activity:
Physical activity releases endorphins which assist in decreasing symptoms associated with depression and anxiety and can lead to increased self-esteem. Engagement in physical activity promotes better sleep, increased energy, and reduces the risk of obesity. It is essential in strengthening the bones and muscles in the body to support healthy development. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommend that all children should engage in a minimum of 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity per day and that children over the age of 6 should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes unless asleep. Examples of this would be time spent on the playground, playing sports, riding a bike, or physical activities that a child participates in on their own. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers should spend additional time engaged in structured physical activity, such as walking, clapping, or moving in ways that interact with you. Limiting time spent in walkers or car seats, and promoting supervised tummy time is especially essential for healthy development in babies.
Encourage a Nutrient Rich Diet:
It is vital for children to get the essential nutrients they need through their diets for healthy brain and body development. Fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, grains, and proteins contain these nutritious properties that aid in healthy development. Try to avoid sugary, processed foods and those containing food dyes, especially in beverages, cereal, chips, and baked goods. Research shows that food dyes have been linked to hyperactivity in children.
Establish a Sleep Routine:
Not getting enough sleep is associated with irritability, sickness, appetite changes, and impaired cognition, demonstrated by decreased concentration and learning difficulties. It is essential to establish a consistent sleep routine to ensure that your child is getting the amount of sleep needed for growth and development. Suggestions recommended include decreasing stimuli before bedtime, such as eliminating or limiting screen time and preparing for rest around the same time daily.
Alyssa Cummings, OTR/L