Healthy Children - November 2013


Striking the Screen Time Balance


Is it better for your child to avoid screen time or to spend time playing with educational apps on your smartphone or tablet?


Since the 1990s, the American Academy of Pediatrics has stood by the recommendation of no screen time—including tablets—for children younger than age 2, and two hours or fewer daily for older children. However, the group admits its recommendation is based on research into passive viewing, such as watching television, and not information  about the merits of interactive apps for handheld devices.


"With the right guidance, settings and apps, devices can be powerful tools for learning, communication and productivity,"  says Nicole Weckherlin, OTR/L, occupational therapist with St. Louis Children's Hospital Therapy Services. "However, direct supervision is needed. Children should not be set up on a device and left to passively watch. For children younger than age 2, technology is meant to be interactive and social. It should be used as a tool of engagement with parents, facilitating exploration and learning."


A Special Opportunity


In her role as an occupational therapist, Weckherlin has witnessed firsthand the difference apps can make in the lives of children, especially those with special needs.


"Devices and apps have allowed children with special needs to actively participate in the classroom setting," she says. "They promote communication, participation in age-appropriate activities, and greater independence, interaction and self-esteem."


What apps are OK? –Read more about apps designed to stimulate your child's mind and development.


Balancing Calories: Help  Kids  Develop Healthy Eating Habits


One part of balancing calories is to eat foods that provide adequate nutrition and an appropriate number of calories. You can help children learn to be aware of what they eat by developing healthy eating habits, looking for ways to make favorite dishes healthier, and reducing calorie-rich temptations.


Encourage healthy eating habits.


There's no great secret to healthy eating. To help your children and family develop healthy eating habits:


  • Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
  • Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
  • Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
  • Serve reasonably-sized portions.
  • Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.


Remember that small changes every day can lead to a recipe for success!


For more information about nutrition, visit and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.


Look for ways to make favorite dishes healthier.


The recipes that you may prepare regularly, and that your family enjoys, with just a few changes can be healthier and just as satisfying.


Remove calorie-rich temptations!


Although everything can be enjoyed in moderation, reducing the calorie-rich temptations of
high-fat and high-sugar, or salty snacks can also help your children develop healthy eating habits. Instead only allow your children to eat them sometimes, so that they truly will be treats! Here are examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar treats that are 100 calories or less.


  • A medium-size apple
  • A medium-size banana
  • 1cup blueberries
  • 1cup grapes
  • 1cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tbsp. hummus


Balancing Calories: Help  Kids Stay  Active


Another part of balancing calories is to engage in an appropriate amount of physical activity and avoid too much sedentary time. In addition to being fun for children and teens, regular physical activity has many health benefits, including:


  • Strengthening bones
  • Decreasing blood pressure
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Increasing self-esteem
  • Helping with weight management


Help kids stay active.


Children and teens should participate in at least 6o minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily.  Remember that children imitate adults. Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you.


Some examples of moderate intensity physical activity include:


  • Brisk walking
  • Playing tag
  • Jumping rope
  • Playing soccer
  • Swimming
  • Dancing


Reduce sedentary time.


In addition to encouraging physical activity, help children avoid too much sedentary time. Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit the time your children watch television, play video games, or surf the web to no more than 2 hours per day. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television viewing for children age 2 or younger.  Instead, encourage your children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity.