Between the ages of 4 and 8 your child is growing and developing rapidly. They need food to provide energy and the essential nutrients to help them grow physically, as well as lots of activity and opportunities to develop their sense of self and self-worth.
Habits established at this age will last, and will help prevent future health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health.
It is recommended that children aim to have 60 minutes of activity a day. Being more active can:
- improve behaviour
- raise self-esteem
- support development of good social skills
- improve sleep patterns
- strengthen muscles and bones
- support and improve coordination
Activities to try with your child:
- Family walks. You can make these more interesting by creating a treasure hunt with things for your child to spot on the way.
- Swimming together. Many pools have family sessions with in-pool activities.
- You can get active in the garden – get creative.
- If your child has a games console, look for games that get them physically active and that you can join in with.
Get to know the facts about your food
Involve your children in finding out about:
- Food labels: These can support you and your family to make healthy choices. Download the NHS Food Scanner app (download on Apple or Android) and your child can explore and learn about food in an interactive way.
- Five a day: Learning which fruit and vegetables count towards their five a day and what a portion size is.
- Reducing the levels of salt and sugar your family is eating: Too much can cause long term health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
- Processed foods: Cut down on processed foods, which may contain higher levels of salt, sugar and saturated fats. Find out more here.
- How much sugar is in the drinks they like? Download the NHS Food Scanner app (on Apple or Android) to engage your children in some detective work and make healthier choices.
- New recipes: For example, try making smoothies or juices together. These can be fun and healthy. Try this banana and blueberry recipe for starters.
- Ideas for healthy snacks: Getting into good habits and routines when children are younger can support them to make healthy choices as they become adults.
- Healthy and unhealthy fats: Some fats are essential whilst others can cause serious health conditions in adult life.
- Grow what you eat: Even if you don’t have a garden, you can grow herbs and vegetables in containers in your kitchen. Find some great ideas here.
Have a look at the Change4Life website - they have some great food swaps and information that is presented in a fun way for you and your children to learn together.
You can also sign up for Healthy Steps, an 8 week email support programme from the NHS that's tailored to your family. Many of the tips and hints you'll get have worked for other parents like you.
For more information, take a look at our Healthy eating section.
Be your child's role model
- Get moving with your children - going for a family walk, going to the local park or playing in the garden are great ways of having some family time.
- Chose healthy snacks and treats.
- Reward your child’s positive choices and behaviour with your time and attention. Your children will love it!
- Eat together as a family, without distractions from phones or tablets.
- Get cooking together – children are more likely to try new foods if they have helped to prepare them.
- Encourage good sleep for you and your children. For further information on sleep see the NHS Live-well website.
Have a look at the BBC food website for some great recipes to cook with children that the whole family will like.
At age 4 your child will need about 11.5 hours sleep a night. Daytime naps will have stopped by the age of 5 for your child. By the age of 8 they still need about 10 hours 15 minutes!
Good bedtime routines will support your child and their development. Making sure your child has time to relax before bed can aid in a good night’s sleep. The Sleep Charity shares examples of bed routines.
Contact your health visitor for more advice.
This content in this section has been co-produced in partnership with The Sleep Charity.
Need some support?
It can be challenging sometimes to establish healthy habits. Here are a few ideas to help out:
- To start with, try to make small changes that you know can be achieved
- Discuss the changes you want to make as a family
- Set simple family goals to achieve
- Praise and encourage each other
- Be consistent with any new family rules
- Try to make changes fun and enjoy spending time together
Five to Thrive - The building blocks of brain development.
Change4Life - aims to ensure parents have the essential support and tools they need to make healthier choices for their families.
The Eatwell Guide - shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.