It’s impossible – and unwise – to keep your rampaging toddler wrapped up in cotton wool. But we do know that as parents you have some hair-raising moments to contend with, on top of the health worries that crop up as your little one grows. Here are our suggestions for keeping your tot in tip-top health.
1. Encourage active play
A happy toddler is a healthy toddler so let him run around. Visit the park, hold running races in the garden, help him learn how to use a scooter, and when he does create havoc at home, don’t fuss about the mess. Instead, challenge him to see how fast he can put away his toys.
2. Look out for hidden risks at home
Before you know it, your toddler will be able to reach surfaces and shelves you thought were out of reach, so think about fitting stair gates, corner cushions, drawer locks, fridge and freezer locks and toilet seat locks.
3. Quit smoking
Passive smoking is really damaging, particularly to children. Secondhand smoke contains around 4,000 chemicals – including irritants and toxins – and breathing it in makes children more susceptible to a range of health conditions, including SIDS, asthma, meningitis, pneumonia and bronchitis. Visit NHS Choices for advice and tips to help you give up. Meanwhile, bear in mind that from October 1, it is illegal to smoke in your car whilst carrying passengers aged under 18 in England and Wales – even with the windows down and the air conditioning on. Anyone lighting up with a child in the car is breaking the law and can be fined.
4. Clean it like you mean it
Don’t go mad, but try to wipe highchair trays and tables regularly with antibacterial spray or wipes: he might have picked up a pile of dirt in the park and tried to eat it, but basic home hygiene should help prevent bacteria and infections from spreading.
5. Keep track of immunisations and health checks
GP surgeries should remind you when it’s time for a health check, but keep a note of when your toddler’s vaccinations and health assessments are due and chase them up if you don’t receive details of their next appointment. A set of vaccinations is due within a month of their first birthday: MMR, Hib/MenC and PCV. Find out more from your GP or practice nurse, or visit the NHS Choices website for details.
6. Look out for salt and sugar
Keep tabs on the salt levels of any ready-prepared foods you give to your toddler. Even foods that don’t seem salty, like cereal, biscuits and bread, can contain high levels. Between the ages of one and three, children should have no more than 2g of salt a day. To keep their teeth healthy limit your toddler’s consumption of added sugars found in juice drinks, fizzy drinks, sweets, jam and cakes; and always dilute fruit juice at least 50:50 with water if your toddler drinks it. If you’re giving them dried fruit, do this at mealtimes rather an as a snack.
7. Protect delicate skin
Your toddler’s skin is ultra sensitive so apply plenty of sun block to exposed skin, at least every two hours (even on cloudy days). Skin also needs to be protected from the elements when it’s cold and windy – a smear of Vaseline usually does the trick on cheeks, lips and sore little noses – and kit out your toddler in all the wellies, waterproofs, hats and mittens they’ll need.
8. Do a food prep and fridge check
Little ones are more at risk from food poisoning. This is because their immune systems are still developing, making them less able to fight off an infection than a healthy adult. Wash your hands before and after preparing food (especially raw eggs and meat), wash dishcloths and tea towels regularly, and prepare and store raw and ready-to-eat foods separately. For more information, visit the Healthy Eating page on NHS Choices.
9. Give healthy snacks
Toddlers are very energetic (you’ve probably noticed this by now!) and usually need a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack to keep them going. Chunks of fruit or rice cakes are good options, but avoid crisps or sugary treats. If your tot is a fussy eater. read our top tips on ways to help your child enjoy mealtimes from top children’s food expert, Annabel Karmel.
10. Vacuum and dust
Experts are still not entirely clear why, but young babies and children are particularly prone to eczema, hay fever and other allergies – possibly for genetic and environmental reasons. Most little ones grow out of these conditions. But dust the room your child sleeps in using a damp cloth, vacuum and change bedding regularly to keep allergies at bay. Wash bedding and clothes using a non-bio detergent to avoid irritating sensitive skin.
11. Clean those tiny teeth
Don’t forget your toddler’s teeth need brushing with a toothbrush and toothpaste that has been specially designed for toddlers (the toothpaste needs to have the correct quantity of fluoride in it to be safe), twice every day. Your toddler can start off the brushing with a small pea-sized blob of paste, but always finish the job yourself to make sure every tooth is cleaned. Take them to the dentist when you have your check ups to get them used to going and check their teeth are healthy – it’s important to prevent cavities, even in milk teeth. Find out more about caring for your toddler’s teeth.