What should a healthy day look like for your child?

What does a healthy day look like?

Health Sleep | Healthy Teeth | Healthy Eating and Drinking | Health Play and Exercise



Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development, learning and growth. By the age of two, most children have spent more time asleep than awake and overall, a child will spend 40% of his or her childhood asleep!

  • Develop regular daytime and bedtime schedules that works for you and your child(ren)
    • Active children are sleepy children
  • Create a consistent and enjoyable bedtime routine that works for you
    • Avoid watching television before bedtime
    • The majority of children fall asleep in 45minutes
  • Establish a regular "sleep friendly" environment
    • Calm, comfortable, cool and dark with no television or screens
  • Encourage baby to fall asleep independently
    • Set limits that are consistent, communicated and enforced.
    • Encourage use of a security object such as a blanket or stuffed animal

Toddlers need about 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their naptimes will decrease to once a day lasting about one to three hours.

Download 'The Good Night Guide for Children'


A poor diet can affect your baby's teeth. Begin to brush baby's teeth twice a day every day as soon as they appear. Use a small smear of toothpaste that contains fluoride. Tooth decay is totally preventable.

Tips for healthy teeth:

  • Don't offer your baby foods or drinks high in sugar
  • Don't offer anything except milk or water in your baby's bottle
  • Don't let your baby or toddler take a bottle of milk to bed and fall asleep with milk pooling round their teeth
  • Don't dip dummies in anything sweet, or pacify children with sweet foods
  • Do introduce a cup from six months
  • To get your baby used to it, do start taking them to the dentist as soon as their teeth appear

For more information, check out the Childsmile website.

Show your children the cartoon on effective tooth brushing, click here.

Download the brush DJ app, click here

Click here to view Healthier Together's dental hygiene page


Preventing and managing weight problems isn't just about diet - it is also about behaviour around eating. Children - especially toddler - need clear boundaries. Don't let all those good eating habits disappear as your baby gets older. These are some tips for enjoying food and preventing problems:

  • Make mealtimes a family and social event. Sit together at a table and turn off the TV. This also encourages slower eating which in turn reduces the volume we eat. We all tend to eat more when distracted by a screen.
  • As they begin to finger feed and use a spoon let your baby feed themself - they are pretty good at regulating what they need whereas we tend to keep encouraging more. At mealtimes allow older children to serve themselves.
  • Set boundaries about eating - children often demand food or insist they are hungry when you know they have had enough to eat. They are often bored and/or thirsty.
  • Don't let your older children get into the habit of helping themselves to food from the cupboards or fridge between meals - again, this is often a sign of boredom and the calories soon add up. Make sure they always ask and if you think they have had enough to eat or there is a meal coming up, do not allow it.
  • Remember that being hungry is normal as a mealtime approaches - otherwise we would have no appetite. Children need to learn to wait.
  • Do not worry if your toddler refuses something to eat - adults create fussy children because we tend to over interpret likes and dislikes. In fact, children cannot make real choices before they reach 4 to 5 years. Offer them what you expect them to eat with obvious allowances. If they choose not to eat it do not be tempted to offer something else - they will eat when they are hungry.
  • Try to avoid drinks laden with sugar - this includes pure fruit juice. These are also not good for teeth! Tooth decay is totally preventable.
  • Try not to reward with food and do not let others either. If grandparents want to offer treats suggest sticker books, reading books or an outing instead.

Click here to download the Healthy Infant Feeding Booklet where this information was extracted from.


It's just as important to make sure the lunchbox your child takes to nursery or preschool provides a healthy and balanced lunch. This means plenty of good quality foods from the 5 food groups, with few 'processed' or packaged or ready-made foods (as these usually contains fewer good nutrients and often more salt and sugar).

A balanced packed lunch should contain:

  • starchy foods – these are cereals, bread, rice, potatoes, pasta. Starchy foods are a good source of energy and should make up a third of the lunchbox.
  • protein foods – including meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds and tofu/quorn
  • a dairy item – this could be cheese, a yoghurt or milk as a drink
  • vegetables, raw and/or cooked
  • a portion of fruit
  • water or milk to drink

Children often like food they can eat with their fingers, so chop up raw veggies such as carrots or peppers and give them hummus or cottage cheese to dip the veggies in. Breadsticks and wholemeal crackers are great finger foods that can be paired with cheese pieces.

Replace chocolate bars and cakes with fresh fruit. Vary the fruit each day and get them to try new things, such as kiwi or melon. You could also make up a tasty fruit salad. Be inventive and encourage your children when they try something new. Some good ideas can be found here

Note that dried fruit is no longer recommended as a between meal snack as it's high in sugar, and can be bad for teeth.

How much sugar should children be eating?

  • Children aged under 4 no more than 12g or 4 teaspoons of free sugars per day.
  • Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g or 5 teaspoons of free sugars per day
  • Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g or 6 teaspoons of free sugars per day
  • Children aged 11 years and upwards, as well as adults, should have no more than 30g or 7 teaspoons of free sugar per day

An example of the sugar content of common lunchbox items includes:

  • A petit filous fromage fraise (80g) contains 2.5 teaspoons of free sugar,
  • Barney bear cake bar (chocolate) contains 2 teaspoons of free sugar
  • No added sugar fruit shoot drink (apple and blackcurrant) contains 1 teaspoon of free sugar

This calculated together is 5.5 teaspoons of sugar in a standard lunchbox, meaning in one meal, a child under 4yrs, will have exceeded their daily intake by 1.5 teaspoons.

Click here for more information from Change4Life


Toddlers learn eagerly and most want to try new activities. Encouraging your toddler to keep physically active will help him/her to:

  • Develop movement skills
  • Keep up with friends in the playground and in sporting activities as they get older
  • Stay a healthy weight
  • Keep a healthy heart

All activities such as active play inside or outside, walking, running and dancing counts.

Limit TV and other screen time like computers to just one hour a day.

Be patient; some toddlers take longer than others to learn new skills. Some are better co-ordinated than others. Keep gently encouraging, make it fun and give lots of praise.

Child-led play

Child-led play means following your child’s lead in play. It means watching your child and responding to what your child says or does to keep their attention focused a little bit longer and experience that you are interested in them and find joy in them.

Following your child’s lead is good because your child learns best when they’re interested in an activity. When your child leads, they build communication skills, learn about the world around them and how to influence things around them. Do child lead play for a specific time as part of your daily routine.

What you need for child-led play

All you need for child-led play is whatever your child is interested in at the time. This might be a toy or something in the environment, like a bird or a fire truck. It might even be you and the funny faces and sounds you’re making together.

Follow their lead 

  • Start by noticing what your child is interested in. It could be something they’re playing with, like a ball, or something they’re doing, like jumping through puddles.
  • Go along with what your child is doing. If they roll a ball to you, you might roll it back. Stay focused on the activity. Avoid distracting your child or changing the way the activity is happening.

Wait and watch

  • Let them discover for themselves and keep your attention on them. 
  • When they look towards you, show interest and get involved.

Play a supporting role

  • Don't ask questions, make suggestions or lead the play in any way. Instead, comment on what you’re both doing. For example, ‘That was a big roll – I nearly missed it!’ Give your child time to respond.
  • If your child changes to something new, let them be the leader. For example, if they stop rolling the ball and start playing with blocks, move to the blocks with them.
  • When child-lead play is over, say it's time to tidy up and ask your child to help. Give specific praise for any helping behaviour. 


Messy play: Getting used to putting their hands in different textures can help toddlers who are fussy about their food.

Pretend play: When toddlers play with toys and other objects and pretend they are people, they are learning about the world around them.

Fun activities for indoors or outdoors

  • Play 'keep it up' with a balloon
  • Have a dance-a-thon
  • Play catch with a bean bag
  • Plan an in/outdoor treasure hunt
  • Play musical statues
  • Play hide and seek
  • Read stories and sing songs that require actions in time with the words
  • Dance or jump to music
  • Make a den
  • Rough and tumble play is also fun, so only stop it if it seems unsafe

Physically active toddlers should be in a safe environment and supervised at all times.

For more information on physical activity for children under 5yrs, click here


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