10 Tips for a Healthy Toddler

Give Positive Feedback

»Why it’s vital: When you praise good behavior, you not only encourage your child to learn about her environment (which is pretty much a toddler’s job description), you also promote parent-child bonding. Your job as a parent is to guide her through these experiences in a positive way. “A child who is encouraged feels good about herself and her accomplishments,” explains McCoy. “It makes a huge difference in self-esteem.”

When you criticize too often, your child may become withdrawn and unsure of herself, and may fear trying new things. So offer hugs and compliments as often as possible. “We don’t realize how many negative messages we give toddlers,” explains McCoy. “We’re always saying ‘No, no, no’ to protect the child, and it can have an effect if the child isn’t praised as well.”

Use Car Safety Seats Correctly

»Why it’s vital: This stat says it all: Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers 1 to 4 years old. You’d probably never dream of not using a safety seat, but you need to make sure you’re using it correctly. In one study by the National Highway Traffi c Safety Administration (NHTSA), 72 percent of safety seats were misused in a way that could increase a child’s risk of injury during an accident.

“One of the biggest mistakes is putting a 12- to 18-month-old in a forwardfacing seat too soon,” says Rene Hopkins, R.N., coordinator of the accident-prevention organization Safe Kids. “Keep a child rear-facing until he’s 30 to 35 pounds to provide signifi cant protection to the head, neck and spine.” For older toddlers, a booster seat can reduce injury risk by 59 percent compared to safety belts alone, but again, make sure your tot is developmentally ready for one. This means your child must weigh at least 40 pounds, which usually doesn’t happen until she’s 4 to 6 years old.

“A car seat is a positioning device that’s effective only if the child is sitting in it properly at the moment of the crash,” explains Hopkins. “If a child is leaning, picking up stuff from the car floor or moving around, the seat isn’t going to protect him as intended.” For more information on how and when to use child safety seats, visit the NHTSA website at nhtsa.dot.gov.