Most children are very interested in what will make them smarter, faster, stronger, and bigger, so this is a great age to enlist your child's help in food choices and safe preparation. Keep a copy of the "USDA Food Pyramid" visible in your kitchen as a reference. Milk is still recommended at about 2 cups a day (skim or 1%), but yogurt and calcium-fortified orange juice are appropriate calcium substitutes for children who do not care for milk (Vitamin D may need to be supplemented).
Children give in to temptation easily, so avoid having large amounts of high fat or low nutrient foods available (candy, chips, pop). Teach your child that unhealthy foods are never helpful to the body and should be reserved for special occasions.
Try to make mealtime a social, family event. Offer 3 meals and 1-2 snacks a day of the same healthy foods you serve everyone else, and ignore negative comments. Your child's likes and dislikes will change as she eats more with other children. Quietly remove uneaten foods; if she is hungry shortly after a meal, remind her of when the next meal or snack will come.
Children still need 8-12 hours a night, and naps often become "rest periods." Your child may want to negotiate a change in bedtime. Fears are still common.
Remember that all children have accidents (daytime and nighttime). Try to remain positive and not focus on the issue. If wetting becomes excessive or bothersome to your child, consult your health care provider. This is a good age to help your child become more independent with her toilet hygiene.
It is recommended that all children remain in appropriately sized, federally approved car restraints (booster seats), and all children under 12 should continue to ride in the back seat. Teach consistent seatbelt use by your own good example.
Discuss "good" and "bad" touch and appropriate contact with strangers. Make sure your child knows her full name, phone number, address and parents' names before attending kindergarten.
Use sunscreen (at least SPF 15) during all outdoor daytime activity.
Enforce helmets (without exception) for biking and in-line skating.
Never leave your child unattended near water, even if she can swim. Wear life vests when boating (it's a Minnesota State Law) or in deep water. Consider swimming lessons.
Continue to update your childproofing, and assess all locations your child may visit (such as a friend's house or grandparent's house). Keep all medications and toxic household products in a locked cabinet and make sure all have working safety caps. We also recommend that you keep the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222) phone number handy next to all of your home phones and programmed into your cell phone.
Whether your child looks forward to kindergarten this year or next, it promises to be an exciting, and stressful, time (for your child and probably you, too). Most children struggle for independence, but learn it can carry responsibility they may or may not be ready for (or just may not like!). Every child develops at an individual pace. Some children learn to write their names while others are trying to get rid of the training wheels on their bikes. Similarly, some children are earlier than others developing comfort separating from a parent and adjusting to a new situation. You know your child best. Anticipate the initial school challenges, and prepare your child as needed. Regression (in behavior, self-care skills, etc.) is common. Regardless, praise all efforts that are pointed in the right direction. Encourage your child to develop friendships and interests in a variety of activities, but continue to limit TV and idle computer time. Plan and encourage participation in family events.
We look forward to seeing your child again at age SIX. No vaccines are anticipated. By then your child will probably want to be involved in every activity under the sun! Please try to be at least 10 minutes early for all scheduled well-child visits.
Strive for the balance!