Two children playing jump rope

    Healthy Kids

    A healthy kid is a happy one. Research shows that children who have their physical and emotional needs met have a lasting sense of well-being. In one study, children raised on nutritious foods had higher self-esteem and fewer social problems than those who had a less healthy diet. Active kids, meanwhile, report sounder sleep and an easier time dealing with emotional ups and downs.

    There are plenty of things you can do to help your children grow strong—in body, mind, and spirit. We cover the basics for raising healthy children, including nutrition, fitness, vaccinations, social and emotional development, and of course, fun!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • How do I make my kids emotionally strong?

      It starts with a loving approach when they're very young. Doing things to help your baby feel securely attached to you, like being supportive when they are upset or hurt, fosters emotional regulation skills that stick through adulthood. But don't shield your child from disappointment. Letting little kids make mistakes helps them practice resilience for when life gets more complicated.

      Remember, children look to parents to see how to feel about the world. If you feel stressed or unable to cope, seek help from a psychologist or licensed social worker to get back on track to model the emotional strength you want to see in your kids.

    • What are the characteristics of a healthy child?

      Healthy kids thrive physically and emotionally. If they are growing at a steady pace, that's a good sign they are getting enough to eat. Being alert and attentive in school and physically active in their free time are indicators that they are sleeping well. Fears, worries, and social challenges are normal, but in mentally healthy children, these issues tend to be mild, fleeting, and not interfere with daily life.

    • What does a healthy child need?

      Kids need a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and mainly water to drink. Children also need about an hour of fairly vigorous physical activity (running, jumping, climbing, or playing sports) each day. Adequate sleep is also essential: school-age children need between 8 and 12 hours, depending on their age. Their childhood immunizations should be up-to-date, too.

      Don't forget kids' mental and emotional needs. All children deserve safe and secure surroundings, attentive and encouraging teachers and caregivers, the opportunity to play with other children, and, above all, unconditional love from family.

    • How do I know if my child is healthy?

      Let your child's pediatrician and your instincts be your guide. Regular check-ups will ensure your child is hitting developmental milestones and has healthy hearing, vision, and vital signs. While kids may go through picky stages or growth spurts that may affect their appetite, children who are eating well usually have a fairly steady body mass index (BMI) within the 5th and 85th percentile for their height. Having a generally positive outlook and being able to function well at home, school, and in their communities are key signs of good mental health.

    • What foods help a child grow taller?

      Genetics, not diet, is mostly what determines your child's current and future height. There's no single food, drink, or vitamin that will cause your child to sprout and grow taller. That said, although it's rare in children in the U.S., malnutrition can stunt children's growth. To make sure your child is growing at their fullest potential, serve plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and water instead of sugary drinks.

    • How to improve my toddler’s health?

      Take toddlers to check-ups at 12, 15, 18, and 24 months to get childhood vaccinations as well as a standard toddler developmental screening. As they learn to walk, childproof your home with child safety locks, stair gates, and electrical outlet covers to keep them safe from common injuries. Limit sweets and screens; the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than half a cup of juice each day for all toddlers, no screen exposure for children younger than 18 months, and only occasional screen use for those between ages 18 and 24 months. Share nutritious snacks and storytime with them instead!

    • What does a child need from parents?

      Children lean on parents for the basics to live: shelter, sufficient food, clothing that keeps them warm and dry, medical care, and protection from physical harm. But to truly thrive, kids need emotional sustenance from you, too. This includes authentic praise, encouragement to strive to meet their goals, and firm-but-loving discipline. As your child's most important advocate, you need to speak up for them and support them when challenges inevitably arise.

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    Page Sources
    Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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