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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

  This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff in collaboration with Sanford Health Systems.

9. Do make sure your child is getting enough sleep and is ‘unplugged.’

More and more studies are being released that link a lack of sleep to weight gain and other medical illnesses. Work to make sure that your child is getting enough sleep every night.

Sleep needs vary from child to child, but the following are general guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation:

  • 1 to 3 years old: 12 to 14 hours per day
  • 3 to 5-year-olds: 11 to 13 hours per day
  • 5 to 12-year-olds: 10 to 11 hours per day
  • 12 to 18-year-olds: at least 8 1/2 hours per day

To help your child get the right amount of Zzzs, remind him to ‘unplug’ from the computer, cell phone, and TV at least two hours before bedtime. Artificial light from electronics stimulates the brain and may make it harder to fall asleep.

Also, remember, the more time your child spends watching TV or being on the computer or phone, the less time he’s spending having positive interactions with family or being physically active.

10. Do make it clear that you love your child unconditionally.

Remember that your long-term goal as a parent is the same whether your child is size 4 or 14: to raise a person who is comfortable with herself and knows that she is loved.

"Be careful of the messages you send," Stone says. "You never want your child to believe that your love for her is based on what she eats or doesn't eat."

As a once overweight child, Torres agrees. "Kids need to know that what you feel about them has nothing to do with their weight," she says. "Part of loving yourself means taking care of your body and keeping it healthy. If your child knows she's loved and learns to love herself, she's far more apt to make healthy choices."


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