Healthy habits for the best start

child boy and father read a book on floor at homeFrom ensuring a good night’s sleep to frequent reading and loving interactions, here are some key building blocks for your child’s success

It seems like only yesterday you brought your little one home from the hospital. You have been there with them during the many nightly feedings, their erratic sleep cycle, countless diaper changes and watched with pride as they grew from newborn to toddler.

The first few years of a child’s life are perhaps the most important in terms of growth and development, and it’s natural for parents to worry about whether their child is achieving important milestones in a timely manner.

By encouraging good habits from the very beginning, parents can make sure their child is off to the best start possible.

Healthy sleeping habits

Instilling good sleep habits at an early age is very important. Research shows inadequate sleep can affect your child’s mood and behaviours, their eating habits, and their ability to concentrate in school.

A few common problems parents encounter with their children are inadequate sleep, resistance to sleeping and frequently waking up at night.1 On average, toddlers should get 10-13 hours of sleep every night and preschoolers should get 10-12 hours.2

Although napping is common in infants, by the time children are ready to go to school, they usually don’t need to nap during the day. Instead, make sure your little one’s bedtime and the time they wake up in the morning is consistent and maintained every day, whether it is a school day or the weekend.

Early literacy

From birth until five years of age, children experience a rapid rate of psychological development that is shaped by their interactions with the surrounding environment. The way a child interacts with their parent is perhaps the most important way in which they learn about the world around them.

Research shows reading to your child and encouraging them to read at an early age helps prepare them for school and improves their future academic career.

It’s also a great way to help them get a head start when they’re ready to head off to school. Activities such as singing to your child and engaging them in conversations are also a great way to improve their vocabulary.

Starting from when they are newborns, babies learn to interpret environmental and social cues by listening to their parents’ voices and by watching their facial expressions. Start by reading age-appropriate books, especially picture books, and make them a part of your baby’s daily routine.

As your child grows older, continue reading to and with them, so it becomes a habit. Consider setting up a comfortable and cosy reading nook where your child can go when they want to read.

Limit the amount of time your child spends watching TV and playing video games and encourage them to read instead. Have a library card made for them, take them on frequent trips to the library and help them choose which books to read.

In order to make sure they choose age and reading level-appropriate books, present your child with a few options and let them decide.

“When you read, speak, or sing with your baby or child, you are surrounding them with words and language that are the building blocks of later reading success,” says Dr. Alyson Shaw, a CHEO pediatrician.

“Sharing books daily makes routines like mealtime, nap time, and bath time easier. You don’t have to read the books all the way through — just talking about the pictures can be enough.

“Most importantly, regular story time with a loving adult early in life creates positive bonds that benefit your child’s health throughout their life course.” conditions/hic_sleep_in_your_babys_first_year/hic_sleep_in_toddlers_ and_preschoolers and_child