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Preparing Your Child for School, Part 1–Physical Development

With the recent start of school, parents often start to notice differences in their children. Sometimes these changes are due to new environments and new, unfamiliar situations that school presents. Other times these changes in children may be an indication of underdevelopment of the child: physically, mentally, or emotionally. Rates of development for these areas are different for each child. Underdevelopment does not mean something is wrong with your child, it may simply mean he or she has not yet developed or had enough  experience in a given situation to be confident. Recognizing this, and knowing what to do to promote healthy development in your child can bring great relief to a worried parent and tremendous confidence to the child

Children develop at different rates, and most children are more advanced in some areas than in others. There is no one quality or skill that is most important, but a combination of things will contribute to children's success. These include good health, physical well-being, social and emotional maturity, language skills, an ability to solve problems and think creatively, and general knowledge about the world.

Being ready for school depends partly on what the school expects, notes the U. S. Department of Education. One school may think it is very important for children to sit quietly and know the alphabet, while another may believe it is more important for children to get along well with others. You will want to visit your child's school to learn what the teachers and principal expect, and discuss any areas of disagreement.

Schools may have different priorities, but most educators agree that the following areas are important for success: good health and physical well-being, social and emotional preparation, and language and general knowledge. We will discuss how to prepare your child in each of these areas.

Food, Health, & Physical Well-Being

Young children need nutritious food, enough sleep, safe places to play, and regular medical care. These things help children get a good start in life and lessen the chances that they will later have serious health problems or trouble learning. Good health for children begins before birth with good prenatal care. It continues after birth with a balanced diet. School-aged children can concentrate better in class if they eat nutritionally balanced meals. These should include breads, cereals, and other grains products, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, beans, and dairy products. Avoid too many saturated fats and sweets.

Children aged two through five generally can eat the same foods as adults but in smaller portions. Your child's doctor or clinic can provide advice on feeding babies and toddlers. Federal, state and local aid is available for parents who need food in order to make sure their children get a balanced diet. For information and to find out if you are eligible, contact your local or state health department.

Preschoolers require regular medical and dental checkups and immunizations. It's important to find a doctor or a clinic where children can receive routine health care as well as special treatment if they are sick or injured. Children need immunizations beginning around the age of two months to prevent diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Hib (a type of influenza), polio, and tuberculosis. These diseases can have serious effects on physical and mental development. Regular dental checkups should begin at the latest by the age of three.

Preschoolers need opportunities to exercise and develop muscle coordination. To learn to control large muscles, children need to throw balls, run, jump, climb, and dance to music. To learn to control small muscles, particularly in the hands and fingers, they need to color with crayons, put together puzzles, use blunt-tipped scissors, and zip jackets. In kindergarten, they will build upon these skills.

For more resources for healthy child development, click here.

Click here to learn about "The 6 Best Things You Can Do For Your Children."

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