A healthy lifestyle is important to your child’s overall health and wellbeing. Here you will find useful information on healthy eating, physical activity and getting enough sleep.
A healthy, balanced diet will provide your child with the vitamins, minerals and nutrition they need to grow and develop their minds and their bodies, to be able to concentrate in their lessons and to be physically active.
There’s lots of information available on healthy eating and nutrition, but the main things to remember are plenty of fruit and vegetables, some proteins such as meat, fish, eggs and milk, and lots of water. You don’t have to buy fresh; tinned fruit and veg is also fine, and buying food in season means it not only tastes better but is cheaper too.
NHS Eatwell Guide: nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide
NHS Change4Life website: nhs.uk/change4life
You can also find additional information on child health at healthforkids.co.uk which has an area for children to find out more about how to stay healthy.
Studies have shown that by eating together with members of their family that children are more likely to have a healthy weight.
It’s also an opportunity for you to talk, perhaps about things they’ve enjoyed learning about at school, or plans for the coming weekend.
It might also be an opportunity to talk about something that didn’t go well for them during the day and talk about their feelings. For further information see the Feelings section.
How much physical activity should children do to keep healthy?
Children and young people need to do 2 types of physical activity each week:
- aerobic exercise
- exercises to strengthen their muscles and bones
Children and young people aged 5 to 18 should:
- Aim for an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a day across the week
- Take part in a variety of types and intensities of physical activity across the week to develop movement skills, muscles and bones
- Reduce the time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity. Aim to spread activity throughout the day. All activities should make you breathe faster and feel warmer
What counts as moderate activity?
Moderate intensity activities will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate intensity level is if you can still talk, but not sing. Examples of moderate intensity activities:
- walking to school
- playground activities
- riding a scooter
- walking the dog
- cycling on level ground or ground with few hills
You can find more information about physical activity for children at: kidshealth.org/en/parents/exercise
Sleep is essential for your child’s growth and development. The recommended number of hours sleep for a child aged 6-13 is 9 to 11 hours.
To help your child get the right amount of sleep it is good to teach them about healthy sleep habits, with a regular and consistent bedtime routine. This will help ensure your child wakes up feeling refreshed and better behaved.
Before bedtime aim for at least 30 minutes of quiet time, doing relaxing things such as a bath, put pyjamas on, clean teeth, go to the toilet, read a bedtime story, give your child a goodnight kiss and turn the lights off as you leave the room.
Find more information on sleep:
Sleep and autism
Children often have sleep issues but for those on the autism spectrum, sleeping well may be particularly difficult. Take a look at autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/physical-health/sleep to find some strategies that can be used to help your child sleep better.