Children and teens

Blueberries

Healthy habits

We know you want to do everything you can to help your child be healthy. The best way to do this is to stay up to date with scheduled well-child checkups, immunizations, and screening tests. It's also important for both you and your kids to live a healthy lifestyle. Use the tips below as a guide to healthy lifestyle habits for children and teenagers.

Alcohol and drugs

Your kids and teens are used to learning from you. Be a positive role model and act responsibly.

  • Talk to them about the dangers of drinking alcohol, using drugs, and driving while under the influence.
  • Set a good example by never driving after using alcohol or taking drugs.

Dental care

You love to see your kids smile. Help keep their teeth healthy by taking these simple steps.

  • Do not leave a bottle with your baby at nap or bed time. Falling asleep with sugary drinks — including milk, formula, and fruit juice — can cause tooth decay.
  • Brush your children's teeth and teach them to brush and floss their own teeth once they are old enough.
  • Talk to your doctor about when to schedule your child’s first dental visit. See the dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings.
  • Teenagers should floss daily, use fluoride toothpaste, and go to all regularly scheduled cleanings and exams.

Diet and nutrition

Kids and teens need fuel for growth. Follow these guidelines when making decisions about what your children should eat.

  • In the first 6 months of life, breast milk is the best food for your baby. It is all the nutrition he or she needs.
  • After age 2, try to limit foods high in fat and cholesterol, such as fast foods, chips, and sweets.
  • For toddlers and older children, serve 3 nutritious meals a day, plus healthy snacks. Make sure your child gets at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Serve your kids water or nonfat or low-fat milk. Limit sodas and other sugar sweetened drinks—having 1 can is like drinking a candy bar! Limit juice to no more than 4 ounces each day, and read labels to make sure it is 100 percent juice.
  • Encourage your teenagers to eat a healthy diet. Limit fast foods and serve nonfat or low-fat milk at home. Include at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Emphasize foods rich in  iron and calcium.
  • Learn more about good nutrition for the whole family.

Emotional health

  • To support their emotional health, children and teenagers should eat right and get plenty of sleep.
  • If you think they might be depressed, thinking of suicide, or are being hurt by someone, encourage them to talk to you, their physician, or another adult they can trust.

Exercise

Boy on a bikeRegular physical activity is one of the best ways to prevent disease. Encourage your child's natural desire to play and help build a lifelong exercise habit.

  • Create opportunities for your child to play actively for at least 60 minutes every day. Walk, run, and play with your child whenever possible.
  • Older children and teenagers should have a minimum of 1 hour of vigorous exercise 4 times a week.
  • Limit TV, video games, and computer use. Remove the TV from your child's bedroom.
    • From birth to 2 years: TV, video games, and computer games are not recommended.
    • From 3 years to pre-teen: Limit screen time to 1 hour per day.
    • Teens: Limit screen time to 2 hours per day.

Safety

Help protect your kids from accidental injury by taking these safety precautions at home and on the go.

Home

  • Put medicines out of reach. Keep the Poison Control Center toll-free telephone number (1-800-222-1222) near the phone.
  • Install fences and self-latching gates around pools, and use guards on windows and stairs, to help prevent drowning and falls.
  • Put your baby to sleep on his or her back (the "back to sleep" position) to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Set water heater temperature between 120 degrees and 130 degrees Fahrenheit to help prevent burns.
  • Install smoke detectors and change the batteries regularly.
  • If you have guns in your house, keep them unloaded and locked up at all times.
  • Watch for sources of lead toxicity such as old, chipping paint. Tell your doctor if your child regularly spends time in a house built before 1978 — a risk factor for lead poisoning.

On the go

  • Make sure your children ride in the back seat of the car, which is safer than the front if you are in an accident. Use safety seats and seat belts in accordance with your state law.
  • Don’t text or talk on the phone while driving. Be an example for your children and pull over to a safe place if you need to use your phone.
  • Never leave your child alone at home or in a car.
  • Make sure your kids wear helmets and protective padding for recreational activities such as biking, skating, skiing, snowboarding, and riding a horse. Kids who play sports should wear gear appropriate to their activity or player position.

Read our healthy habits checklist and learn more about first aid and safety.

Sexuality

Encourage your teenagers to postpone sex. If your teenager is sexually active, encourage your teen to talk with his or her physician about birth control, safer sex, and STD screening.

Skin safety

Protect your kids' skin from the sun. Long-sleeved shirts, hats, and sunscreen of at least 30 SPF can reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Tobacco use

Using tobacco products can lead to health problems, and it's often tough to quit. Do what you can to make sure your child never starts.

  • Don't smoke or allow anyone to smoke around your child.
  • If you smoke, one of the most important things you can do for your own health and the health of your children is to quit. Kaiser Permanente has resources to help you quit smoking.
  • Talk with your child about the dangers of smoking and chewing tobacco. Being tobacco free is one of the best things your kids and teenagers can do to protect their health.
  • Contact your local health education center for more information about quitting smoking. You can find a health education center near you by visiting our facility directory.

Well-child checkups

A healthy child needs routine checkups, which give you the chance to talk to your health care practitioner about growth, development, nutrition, immunizations, and safety.

  • Bring your child to all well-check visits. These are generally recommended every few months from birth to age 2, then every 1 to 2 years until age 21, or more often as directed by your physician or medical team.
  • Your physician will let you know when to bring your child or teenager in for an office visit. You can make your child's appointments online.
  • Get information about growth and development at specific ages.

For more information

Learn more about developmental milestones and what to expect at various ages in our child and teen health center.

Reviewed by: Craig Robbins, MD, December 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente