Healthy lifestyles for 9-12 year olds

9-12 years

There are many different pressures in family life which can place a range of demands on both our bodies and minds.

As parents and carers, taking the time to invest in our own physical and emotional well-being can be invaluable to supporting our children’s wellbeing. Many of us know that, as carers, we are better able to meet our children’s needs when we are able to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally.

Girl being taught to ride a bike

We are our children’s role model, and by showing them how important it is to take good care of ourselves we can influence and support our 9-12 year olds to set up positive habits and behaviours which become part of everyday life. 

There are many things that are happening for your 9-12 year old both emotionally and physically so let’s have a look at some of the areas where you can encourage and support them.

Healthy eating

Support your child to become involved in what they are eating and helping prepare meals. Encourage them to understand what is meant by healthy eating. There are some great healthy eating quizzes on the BBC site which can be useful ways to start a conversation with your child.

Young girl and her mother cooking a healthy meal
  • Support them to understand the link between the food we eat and long term health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease
  • Look with them at the amount of sugar and saturated fats in their favourite drinks and food
  • Get them reading and understanding food labels so they can make healthy choices
  • Ask them ideas for healthy snacks
  • Think about your own eating habits – be a role model to your child

Take a look at the Change4Life Food Facts page and share with your child. They have some great food swaps and information that is presented in a fun way. 

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, see our Healthy eating section. 

Being more active

Physical activity is important for children aged 9 to 12. It helps them stay healthy, and happy, and develop important skills. 

Being active can also prevent potential health issues for your child like heart disease and diabetes later in life. 

Being active helps: 

  • Ease stress and anxiety, making your child happier and more balanced. 
  • Boost your child's self-esteem and make them feel more confident. 
  • Your child sleep better and wake up refreshed. 
  • Improve coordination, helping strengthen muscles and bones. 
  • Your child make friends and learn how to work with others. 

To help your 9-12-year-olds become active, here are some ideas: 

  • Aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day. This can include suggestions like riding a bike, swimming, dancing, playing sports or walking the dog. 
  • Limit screen time and encourage outdoor play instead.  
  • Show them how it's done! When they see you being active, they'll want to join in. 
  • Offer a variety of activities and let them explore to discover what they enjoy. 
  • Make physical activity fun and enjoyable with family outings and active games. 

Remember, every child is different, and their interests may vary. It's important to find activities that your child enjoys and make them excited to be active.  

Here are some helpful websites that might encourage the whole family to get moving: 


sleeping child in bed

As parents and carers, you know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep! Your child also needs a good night's sleep as it will:

  • Restore them physically
  • Help them learn 
  • Help them remember things

At this age your child will need between 9-10 hours of sleep.

Further information: 

The Sleep Charity logo

This content in this section has been co-produced in partnership with The Sleep Charity.


This can be a challenging time for children and parents. As we are all different, it is completely normal for a child to begin puberty at any time between the ages of 8 and 14 years old.

Take the opportunity to talk to your child about the changes that are going to happen to their bodies. There's a guide to some of the changes that happen during puberty on the BBC Bitesize website.

If you are concerned about your child’s health or emotional wellbeing, to start with you should contact your GP who will able to support you, or point you to the right support for your child.

Further resources

NHS Change4Life - aims to ensure parents have the essential support and tools they need to make healthier choices for their families

The NHS Eatwell Guide - shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet

NHS Live Well - Physical activity recommendations for children and young people

NHS Stress, Anxiety and Depression - It can be hard to start conversations with our children on feelings, the NHS has a section dedicated to helping you start the conversation with them.

Parentzone has a lot of help and advice for families living in a digital world, such as ‘10 Golden Rules of Healthy, Happy Mealtimes’ – this could help you to get your children into healthy habits which will set them up for their whole lives.

Five to Thrive - The building blocks of brain development.

Planet Possible - An app (Apple only) that helps children get active through play.   

Last updated on 6 March 2024