||A Healthy Start to School
Starting kindergarten is an exciting time.
Check if your child is ready for school:
If you have concerns about your child's readiness for school or would like more information about the topics listed below, call
- Can your child dress, eat and go to the bathroom without help?
- Can your child be away from you for a few hours?
- Can your child use crayons, scissors or look at books?
- Has your child had an eye examination?
- Has your child received the immunizations needed to attend school?
Toronto Health Connection at 416-338-7600 or email
How to help your child do well at school
Children learn best when:
All parents have questions about parenting and their child’s school. There are many people in the school who can help. Speak with the teachers, principals, guidance counsellors, social workers, and public health nurses. For newcomers to Canada, in certain schools there are settlement workers to help as well.
- They have a routine at home. When children know what activity comes next they feel safer and less worried.
- They have enough sleep, healthy foods, and physical activity.
- They feel safe in their school.
- Their parents are involved in their learning and their school.
How to help your child to have a healthy start to school:
Have you ever wondered why kids act the way they do or how you can discipline your child without spanking?
Do you want to learn more about parenting skills such as setting limits, problem solving and using praise?
Toronto Public Health offers free parenting programs that talk about these and other parenting issues, call Toronto Health Connection at 416-338-7600 or email email@example.com.
Healthy food, healthy learner
Children need healthy food to give them energy so they can learn better in school.
- Give enough time for your child to eat a healthy breakfast every morning.
- Ask if your child’s school has a breakfast, snack or lunch program.
- Provide a variety of foods from the Canada’s Food Guide every day (the four food groups are: Vegetables & Fruits, Grain Products, Milk & Alternatives, and Meat & Alternatives).
- Choose a variety of snacks every day from one to three of the four food groups. Most children need snacks for energy between meals.
- Healthy lunches should include foods from three to four of the four food groups.
Our hands often carry and spread germs. Washing our hands is the best way to prevent many illnesses and diseases such as cold and flu.
Be a good role model and make sure everyone washes their hands for at least 15 seconds with soap and water:
Speech and language
- After using the washroom.
- After sneezing, coughing, blowing their nose.
- Before eating foods.
- Before touching a cut or open sore.
- After touching garbage.
- When their hands are visibly dirty.
- After playing with animals.
The ability to communicate is essential for your child’s success at school, so they can learn and interact with other children. Does your child:
If you answered "no" to any of these questions or if you have other concerns about your child’s communication skills, speak to your doctor or call Toronto Public Health.
- Talk in whole sentences using adult-like grammar?
- Tell a story that is easy to follow?
- Ask many questions?
- Answer who, how, how many questions?
- Start a conversation and continue it, staying on the same topic?
- Use language to create pretend situations when playing with others?
- Do people outside the family understand what your child says? (Children do not say all sounds clearly at this age.)
I see, I learn
Research shows that 80 percent of what children know is learned through their eyes. Children should have a complete eye examination by an optometrist before age three and then every year afterwards.
Most schools do not have a vision screening program, but OHIP will cover an eye examination by an optometrist every year for children under 19 years old.
Healthy teeth are important for learning and making friends.
- Make sure your child brushes their teeth properly after meals or at least once a day before bedtime.
- Give your child healthy snacks such as milk, fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Visit the dentist regularly or call Toronto Public Health if you cannot afford to pay for dental care.
Certain immunizations are required for children to go to school.
If your child is missing any immunizations, Toronto Public Health will send you a letter telling you which vaccines he/she needs. If your child cannot be immunized due to medical, religious or personal reasons, call the Immunization Information Line at 416-392-1250.
- Take your child to a doctor to get the needed immunization(s) before starting school.
- Bring your child’s immunization record to the school when registering.
- Report your child’s up-to-date immunization information to Toronto Public Health as your doctor will not.
Sleep and kids
Children need sleep to keep them healthy, happy and doing their best. Children between 5 to 12 years old require 10-11 hours of sleep each night.
- Have a bedtime routine – do the same relaxing things every night e.g. read books together, give your child a bath.
- Try to put your child to bed at the same time every night.
- Make sure the bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.
- Get your child to exercise in the daytime, at least three hours before bedtime.
- Avoid giving your child drinks with caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
It is important for children to be active for at least 60 minutes every day. Children need to be physically active by running, jumping, throwing, catching and kicking to make them physically stronger and to learn motor skills.
Regular physical activity strengthens bones, builds muscle, works the heart and contributes to a healthy body weight and lifestyle. Physical activity also helps children to express themselves, to learn social skills, deal with stress, and do better in school.
Reduce “non-active” time spent on computers or watching TV. Encourage everyone in the family to become physically active – active parents will usually have active children.
Dressing for the weather
To reduce the risk of getting skin cancer and to prevent sunstroke or heat exhaustion in the summer:
In the winter, dress your child with layers of clothing and warm boots with deep treads to prevent falls. Make sure your child’s head, neck, ears and hands are covered to prevent frostbite.
- Reduce the time in the sun between 11 am to 4 pm.
- Look for shaded areas for outdoor activities.
- Cover as much skin as possible with clothing.
- Provide a hat with a wide brim or a flap to cover the back of the neck. Be sure to remind your child to wear it.
- Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher with UVA and UVB protection and reapply as directed by the manufacturer.
To protect the eyes all year round from sun damage, wear sunglasses that provide 100% UVA and UVB protection.
Safety at the playground
Children 5 to 9 years old are injured more frequently in a playground than at any other age. Here are things you can do to help your child to have fun without getting hurt:
Right helmet for each sport
- Remove helmet, drawstring, cord or anything else from your child’s clothing that can get tangled on playground equipment.
- Always tie up shoelaces and remove or tuck in scarves.
- Walk around the playground and look for things or equipment that can be dangerous.
- Stay close to your child and watch them carefully.
Head injuries are the number one cause of serious injury and death to children using equipment with wheels. Different sports need different helmets (e.g. biking, skateboarding, in-line skating).
Make sure that your child is wearing the helmet the right way every time.
For in-line skates, skateboards and scooters, children should use other protective gear for their wrists, elbows and knees.
- Leave a space the width of two fingers between the bottom of the helmet and your child’s eyebrows.
- Fix the side straps so they fit around your child’s ears in a V-shape.
- Tighten the chin strap until you can fit just one finger between the strap and your child’s chin.
Car crashes are a leading cause of injury related deaths for children in Canada. A booster seat is mandatory for children if:
Here are a few things you should know when using a booster seats:
- They are under 8 years of age, or
- They are between 18 kg – 36 kg (between 40 – 80 lbs.), or
- They stand less than 145 cm (4’9”) tall.
Kids and traffic
- A booster seat is needed to position the seat belt properly over your child’s body.
- The lap belt should be positioned low across the hips.
- The shoulder belt should lie across the chest and not across the neck.
- For children 12 years old and under, the safest place to travel is in the back seat.
Children under the age of 10 should be with an adult or someone older when crossing the street. To keep your child safe it is important that you are a good role model.
Here are some safety tips when crossing the road:
Dangers of second-hand smoke
- Wear light coloured clothing.
- Only cross at crosswalks or corners with traffic lights or stop signs.
- Obey crossing signals.
- Don’t wear headphones or use cell phones.
- Stop, look and listen for traffic.
- Make eye contact with drivers.
- Cross only if the road is clear or traffic has stopped.
Children’s lungs are small and growing; they breathe faster and inhale more second-hand smoke than adults do. Second-hand smoke can lead to asthma, allergies, ear infections and cancer.
The law in Ontario bans smoking in cars with children under 16 years of age.
It is also important to make your home smoke-free.
- Second-hand smoking is even more dangerous inside the small air space of a car.
- Opening the window is not enough – the smoke is blown around to the back seat where children sit.
Talking about sensitive topics
- If you have to smoke, smoke outside. Ask family members for support.
- Let everyone coming to your home know that you do not want smoking in your home or around your child.
Children may be curious or even confused about changes to their bodies and feelings as they grow and may have many questions. Answering your child’s questions will allow you to share your cultural and family values.
Children and stress
- Whenever your child asks a question, it requires an answer, even if it is not right away.
- It is fine to tell your child you do not know the answer. Tell your child you will find the answer or look it up together.
- Children’s books are a great way to help explain things that you may not know how to answer on your own.
- Teach your child the correct names of all body parts.
- Talk to your child about good touch and bad touch. Encourage your child to tell you if someone’s touch makes them feel uncomfortable.
Just like adults, children can feel anxious or stressed about new situations, meeting new people or having too many things to worry about.
Stress in your child may show up in many ways including:
You can help your child if they feel stressed by:
- Headaches or tummy aches.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Eating more or less.
- Not wanting to go to school.
- Becoming more quiet.
- Looking sad or worried.
- Getting your child familiar with the school and school grounds before starting school.
- Spending time and doing things together.
- Paying full attention when your child talks.
- Showing your child that you love him/her.
- Giving your child time to relax from a busy schedule.
- Watching your child play and helping him/her to get along with other children.
Head lice are tiny insects that can live and breed on your child’s head. They are greyish-brown in colour and their eggs are white. The oval-shaped eggs (nits) stick firmly to hair near the scalp, unlike dandruff which can be blown off.
Having head lice is very common. To help prevent your child from getting head lice you can:
You cannot prevent head lice by using head lice shampoos or products. Use them only if your child has head lice. Be sure to read the directions carefully; using the treatments incorrectly or too often can be harmful.
- Discourage head-to-head contact and sharing of hats, scarves, hairbrushes and combs.
- Tie long hair back in braids.
Get involved in your child’s school
- Walk your child to school and get to know other parents and children.
- Talk to your child’s teacher about your child’s strengths and what he/she needs help with.
- Volunteer to do small activities (e.g. reading with students or attending school council meetings) or larger activities at your school (e.g. helping with school trips or fundraising).
- Take time to listen to your child about what they did at school, ask questions, and encourage them (e.g. “I’m proud of how hard you tried”).
- Make time to talk about homework and provide help if needed.
Last updated January 2012