What should a healthy day look like for your child?

What does a health 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 growing child needs teeth to smile and eat with, and to give them confidence. Establishing a good oral care routine from early childhood is important and can be supported by parents and carers.

Start regular effective tooth brushing to remove plaque

Start brushing your toddler's teeth as soon as they erupt and register him or her with a dentist. Let your child see all the family brushing their teeth so it becomes a routine daily activity. You might find that a good time for toothbrushing is playtime or bathtime.

An easy way to brush your child's teeth is from behind. Comfortable and safe positions for your toddler can be on your knee, sitting on a changing mat, in a high chair or in a pram or buggy.

As more teeth come through, develop a system of cleaning them that ensures all surfaces are brushed thoroughly twice each day.

Toddlers should be encouraged to enjoy brushing their own teeth, but children should be supervised until at least seven years and always taught to 'spit don't rinse', because excessive rinsing removes the benefit of fluoride.

Use Flouride toothpaste to strengthen tooth enamel

Brush teeth twice a day with a small soft dry brush using a toothpaste containing fluoride

  • up to the age of three use a smear of toothpaste containing 1000ppm of fluoride
  • over the age of three use a pea sized amount of toothpaste containing 1350-1500ppm of fluoride

Limit Sugar and sugary foods/drinks

To protect your baby’s teeth, it’s important to choose foods without added sugar. Sugar is the main cause of tooth decay, so don’t give your baby sugary snacks, especially between meals. The safest drinks for baby’s teeth are milk and water.

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


Toddlers need a varied, balanced diet to thrive. They also require more calories and nutrients in each mouthful of food than adults because they are rapidly growing and so active. Toddlers need more fat and less fibre than that recommended for others.

Offer foods from all five food groups each day (and 5 different fruits & vegetables a day)

Together they give the right mix of nutrients your toddler needs. Praise your toddler when he or she eats well or tries something new – toddlers take time to learn to like new foods.

For information on 'understanding food groups', click here

Choose the right ingredients and make sure food for 1-4 year olds is low in salt

Young children need to eat small quantities of good food regularly. The best foods are those that are minimally processed and which have been made from good-quality ingredients. Avoid foods that are ‘diluted’ – for example, processed meat or fish covered with breadcrumbs, batter or other coatings (such as sausage rolls, Scotch eggs, chicken nuggets or fish cakes) which make them lower in nutrients. Avoid take-aways and foods that are high in salt such as processed meat, salty snacks and biscuits, sauces and ready-prepared meals.

Download the 'Eating Well Recipe Book'

Have a routine and offer three meals and two to three snacks each day

Offer two courses at each meal. They can have a nutritious snack between meals don’t let your child graze on snacks all day long. Don't insist your toddler eats everything on his or her plate. Never force feed.

Eat together as a family and make mealtimes relaxed, happy occasions

For baby and toddler meal ideas, click here.

Reward your toddler with your attention - never give food and drink as a reward, treat or for comfort.

Bribing, forcing or rewarding your child for eating is never a good idea. If you promise your child a biscuit for eating lunch, you are teaching them that lunch is a punishment and the biscuit is a reward. If food is refused take it away and try again another time. The best way to prevent fussy eating is not to make a fuss.

Give your toddler between six and eight drinks per day to ensure adequate hydration – that’s a drink with each meal and snack

  • More may be needed in very hot weather or if they are particularly active.
  • Use beakers and cups instead of bottles.
  • The best drinks to give between meals and snacks are water or milk.
  • Dilute drinks containing sweeteners with lots of water.
  • Large quantities of juices may reduce your toddlers' appetite or cause loose stools.
  • Do not give tea, coffee or fizzy drinks to toddlers.
  • Children over 1 year of age do not need fortified milks such as toddler milks or growing-up milks. These are sweeter than animal milks. Also, they do not contain enough of some nutrients and may have too much of others.


  • Give vitamins A & D each day (Choose a vitamin supplement suitable for toddlers – most toddlers don't get enough in their food) - for more information click here
  • Praise and encourage, stay positive
  • Cook eggs and shellfish right through
  • Limit sugar intake
  • Only offer at night


  • Add sugar or salt
  • Give processed foods and snacks very often
  • Use squash, juice, tea, coffee or fizzy pop as main drinks
  • Give food that can cause chking (whole nuts, whole grapes, whole cherry tomatoes...)
  • Give shark, swordfish and marlin to toddlers, as they may contain high levels of mercury. Limit smaller oily fish to twice a week for girls and four times a week for boys. e.g. sardines, mackerel, salmon, trout, eel

Learn the facts about sugar, click here

Play the sugar smart game with your children - guess how much sugar is in your carton of juice or can of fizzy drink

Click here for more information about healthy eating for toddlers.


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.


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.

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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