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Children's Health

Child Growth and Development


Your child's doctor or nurse will measure your child's height and weight regularly. Your child's head size will also be measured during the first 2 years of life. Keep track of the child's growth in the Growth Record. These measurements will help you and your doctor know whether your child is growing properly. Ask your child's doctor or nurse: Are my child's height and weight normal for his or her age?


Children develop at different rates. This table shows the ages by which most young children develop certain abilities. It is normal for a child to do some of these things later than the ages noted here. If your child does not do many of these things at the ages given or if you have questions about his or her development, talk with your child's doctor or nurses.

  • 2 Months
    • Smiles, coos
    • Watches a person, follows with eyes
  • baby4 Months
    • Laughs out loud
    • Lifts head and chest when on stomach, grasps objects
  • 6 Months
    • Babbles, turns to sound
    • Rolls over, supports head well when sitting
  • 9 Months
    • Responds to name, plays peek-a-boo
    • Sits alone, crawls, pulls up to standing
  • 1 Year
    • Waves bye-bye, says mama or dada
    • Walks when holding on, picks up objects with thumb and first finger
  • 18 Months
    • Says three words other than mama or dada, scribbles
    • Walks alone, feeds self using spoon
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    2 Years
    • Puts two words together, refers to self by name
    • Runs well, walks up stairs without help
  • 3 Years
    • Knows age, helps button clothing, washes and dries hands
    • Throws ball overhand, rides tricycle
  • 4 Years
    • Knows first and last name, tells a story, counts four objects
    • Balances on one foot, uses children's scissors
  • 5 Years
    • Names 4 colors, counts 10 objects
    • Hops on one foot, dresses self


What your child eats is important for his or her health. Follow the nutrition guidelines below.

Birth to 2 Years Old:

  • baby with bottleBreast milk is the best single food for infants from birth to 6 months of age. It provides good nutrition and protects against infection. Breast-feeding should be continued for at least the first year, if possible. If breast-feeding is not possible or not desired, iron-enriched formula (not cow's milk) should be used during the first 12 months of life. Whole cow's milk can be used to replace formula or breast milk after 12 months of age.
  • Breast-fed babies, particularly if dark skinned, who do not get regular exposure to sunlight may need to receive Vitamin D supplements.
  • Begin suitable solid foods at 4 to 6 months of age. Most experts recommend iron-enriched infant rice cereal as the first food.
  • Start new foods one at a time to make it easier to identify problem foods. For example, wait 1 week before adding each new cereal, vegetable, or other food.
  • Use iron-rich foods, such as grains, iron-enriched cereals, and meats.
  • Do not give honey or corn syrup to infants during their first year.
  • Do not limit fat during the first 2 years of life.

Two Years and Older:

  • Provide a variety of foods, including plenty of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Use salt (sodium) and sugars in moderation.
  • Encourage a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  • Help your child maintain a healthy weight by providing proper foods and encouraging regular exercise.

Physical Activity

Your child needs regular physical activity through play and sports to stay fit. Good physical activity habits learned early can help your child become an active and healthy adult. Adults who are physically active are less likely to be overweight or to have heart disease, high blood pressure, and other diseases. Adults and children should try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.

girl running
  • Encourage your child to participate in physical activities, including sports.
  • Encourage involvement in activities that can be enjoyed into adulthood (for example, walking, running, swimming, basketball, tennis, golf, dancing, and bicycle riding).
  • Plan physical activities with family or friends; exercise is more fun with others.
  • Limit the time your child spends watching TV to less than 2 hours per day. Encourage going to the playground, park, gym, or swimming pool instead.
  • Physical activity should be fun. Don't make winning the only goal.
  • Many communities and schools offer exercise or sports programs—find out what is available for your child.

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Dental and Oral Health

Your child needs regular dental care starting at an early age. Talk with your dentist to schedule the first visit. Good oral health requires good daily care. Follow these guidelines.

For Babies

  • If most of your child’s nutrition comes from breastfeeding, or if you live in an area with too little fluoride in the drinking water, your child may need fluoride drops or tablets. Ask your child’s doctor or your local water department how much fluoride is in your water. Then, ask the doctor whether your child needs fluoride drops or tablets.
  • Don't use a baby bottle as a pacifier or put your child to sleep with a baby bottle. This can cause tooth decay and ear infections.
  • Keep your infant's teeth and gums clean by wiping with a moist cloth after feeding.
  • When multiple teeth appear, begin gently brushing your infant's teeth using a soft toothbrush and a very small (pea-sized) amount of toothpaste with fluoride.

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For Older Children

  • Talk with your dentist about dental sealants. They can help prevent cavities in permanent teeth.
  • Use dental floss to help prevent gum disease. Talk with your dentist about when to start.
  • Do not permit your child to smoke or chew tobacco. Set a good example: don't use tobacco products yourself.
  • If a permanent tooth is knocked out, rinse it gently and put it back into the socket or in a glass of cold milk or water. Take your child and the tooth to a dentist immediately.

Injury Prevention

More children die from injuries than any other cause. The good news is that most injuries can be prevented by following simple safety guidelines. Talk with your doctor about ways to protect your child from injury. Read the list below and check off each guideline that you and your family already follow. Work on those you don't.

Infants and Young Children

  • Use a car seat at all times until your child weighs at least 40 pounds.
  • Use a rear-facing car seat until your child is at least 1 year old and weighs at least 20 pounds.
  • Use the right car seat for your vehicle and for your child’s weight. Read the car seat and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions about installation and use.
  • Keep medicines, cleaning solutions, and other dangerous substances in childproof containers, locked up and out of reach of children.
  • Use safety gates across stairways (top and bottom) and guards on windows above the first floor.
  • Keep hot water heater temperatures below 120 F.
  • Keep unused electrical outlets covered with plastic guards.
  • Provide constant supervision for babies using a baby walker. Block the access to stairways and to objects that can fall (such as lamps) or cause burns (such as stoves or electric heaters).
  • If you use a baby walker, use one that will not fit through a standard doorway or has grippers to stop it at the edge of a step.
  • Keep objects and foods that can cause choking away from your child. This includes things like coins, balloons, small toy parts, hot dogs (unmashed), peanuts, and hard candies.
  • Use fences that go all the way around pools, and keep gates to pools locked.
kid with helmet

Older Children

  • Older children should use car seat belts and sit in the back seat at all times.
  • Children should use a booster seat in the car’s back seat starting when they are 4 years old or weigh at least 40 pounds until they are 8 years old or at least 4 feet 9 inches tall.
  • Make sure your child wears a helmet while rollerblading or riding a bicycle.
  • Make sure your child uses protective equipment for rollerblading and skateboarding (helmet, wrist and knee pads).
  • Warn your child of the dangers of using alcohol and drugs. Many driving and sports-related injuries are caused by the use of alcohol and drugs.

For All Ages

  • Use smoke detectors in your home. Change the batteries every year and check once a month to see that they work.
  • If you have a gun in your home, make sure that the gun and ammunition are locked up separately and kept out of children's reach.
  • Never drive after drinking alcohol.
  • Use car seat belts at all times.
  • Teach your child traffic safety. Children under 9 years of age need supervision when crossing streets.
  • Teach your children how and when to call 911.
  • Learn basic life-saving skills (CPR).
  • Post the number for the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) near your phone. Also, write it in the space on the "Important Information" form. The number is the same in every U. S. location. Do not try to treat poisoning until you have called the Poison Control Center.

A Special Message About SIDS

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death for infants. Put infants to sleep on their backs to decrease the risk of SIDS.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services » Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

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