Ensuring that all children have access to ongoing, quality health care is essential to their development and well-being. Children whose physical, oral, and mental health needs are met in their early years are more likely to be ready to learn and succeed.
What is physical health?
Physical health is the overall physical condition of a person's body. Parents and caregivers should try to ensure children receive the best health care and health education possible. This means children need to have regular well-child check-ups with a doctor.
Parents and caregivers can also promote children's physical health by making sure healthy practices are used in the home and other care settings. Washing hands, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, preparing food safely, and brushing teeth regularly are just a few ways to keep children in good physical health. It is equally important for adults to model healthy behaviors and attitudes to young children as they grow and develop.
For more information about promoting children's physical health, visit these websites:
What is oral health?
Oral health refers to the health of a person's teeth and mouth. Maintaining good oral health includes keeping teeth free from cavities and keeping gums free from disease.
It is important for parents and caregivers to give special attention caring for their children's teeth and gums from the time a child is born. Although it is not recommended for young children to visit a dentist until they show their first tooth (or no later than their first birthday), caring for an infant's oral health is an essential part of the child's development (Source: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry).
As children grow and develop in the first years, parents and caregivers should model appropriate teeth brushing and make it a fun activity for them. Parents and caregivers should also teach children about why brushing their teeth is important. There are a number of fun oral health activities that adults can do with young children. For more information about oral health activities for young children, visit: http://www.adafoundation.org/en/give-kids-a-smile?source=ADAsite&medium=PPMainNav&content=GKAS.
For more information about promoting children's oral health, visit these websites:
- Washington State Department of Health Oral Health Program
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
- American Dental Association
- Washington Dental Service Foundation
What is vision health?
Vision health refers to the health of a person’s eyes and visual system. So much of how we interact in the world is based on what we see, especially as babies. We mimic what we see other people doing and how they are interacting. Therefore, making sure children get good vision care is an important part of healthy development. Parents and caregivers should monitor their children’s visual health by taking them in for regular exams and following up when needed after screenings by pediatricians or community groups. Screenings are an important way to catch problems early, but do not diagnose problems, so it is important to take children into an optometrist or ophthalmologist when referred for further testing and possible treatment.
Signs of vision problems may include:
- Eyes don’t line up (one eye is looking inward or outward)
- Eyelids are red, crusty, or swollen
- Eyes are watery or red
- Child rubs eyes, closes or covers one eye a lot
- Child tilts head or thrusts head forward
- When reading or doing other near-work, child has trouble, holds work close to eyes to see, blinks more than usual, or seems cranky
- Child complains things are blurry or hard to see
- Child squints eyes or frowns
- Child complains of itchy, burning, scratching, blurry, double vision eyes or complains after doing near work that they “can’t see very well,” feels dizzy/headache/nauseous
- List of warning signs courtesy of Prevent Blindness America
For more information about promoting children's visual health, visit these websites:
- Parents Active for Vision Education
- InfantSEE: Helping infants establish a lifetime of healthy vision
- American Optometric Association
- American Academy of Ophthalmology
What is mental health?
Mental health is how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood through adulthood. For young children, their mental health is commonly referred to as social/emotional development. Social/emotional development refers to young children's behaviors, self-control, initiative, attachment and ability to form positive, trusting relationships with others. These skills are essential to children's well-being and success in school and in life.
For more information about promoting children's social/emotional development, visit these websites:
- Devereux Early Childhood Initiative
- Early Childhood Mental Health, Social-Emotional Development, and Challenging Behaviors
- Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health
- Tips for Promoting Social/Emotional Development