Keeping Healthy (KS2): How Exercise, Diet And Hygiene Are Important

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We all know we have to work hard to keep our bodies and minds healthy, but teaching this to children can often be a bit tricky.

What do humans need to stay healthy? Which foods are good for our bodies and which aren't so good?

Inquisitive children are full of questions about health and well being and, luckily for parents, we have the answers!

This guide is here to make learning about keeping healthy much more fun, clear and concise. We'll talk through what children are taught at school about staying healthy, what it means to be healthy and how we can be healthy, in the hope that it makes this topic a bit easier to explain to your children.

If you'd like more help with at-home science lessons, have a look at our guides to sound and materials for KS2 children.

What Do Children Learn About Keeping Healthy At School?

Children start to learn about keeping the human body healthy in Year 3. In this year the idea that humans need certain types of nutrition (from different foods) to keep healthy is introduced. This knowledge is then built on throughout KS2 and by the time your children are in Year 6, they should understand how different factors such as exercise, diet, lifestyle and drugs all impact the human body.

Why Is Being Healthy Important?

Staying healthy means taking care of your body and your mind. This is important because it allows humans (adults and kids alike) to be active, social, and to develop. Keeping healthy also means we are less likely to get sick and miss crucial time in school and social environments.

What Do Humans Need To Stay Healthy?

Being healthy sounds simple but there are actually many different things which children need to learn about in order to understand how to keep the human body healthy. Amongst all of this information, you will find some fun facts about the human body too!

Two young children sat next to a scooter.
Image © senivpetro, under a Creative Commons license.

Nutritious Food:

Humans need a balanced diet of lots of different nutritious food so they have lots of energy and stay in good health.

There are seven groups of nutrients that are important for the human body and for your child to understand:

1. Carbohydrates.

2. Proteins.

3. Lipids (fats and oils).

4. Minerals.

5. Vitamins (fruit and vegetables).

6. Dietary fibre.

7. Water.

Eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables - ideally five a day - is key to getting enough vitamins and fibre and having a balanced diet.

A great way to teach this concept to children is to encourage discussion around the different nutrients in their own food. Nutritious, vitamin-rich foods are often the prettiest, most colourful foods, so there's definitely space to try to make it fun. For example, you could let your children lead a discussion about what is on their plate at dinner time, making sure that you have provided a variety of different nutrient-rich foods to spark this discussion. You could also try letting them help search the shop for the food they want to eat and discussing why different foods would be good for the human body.

It is important that kids understand that balance and eating different food is also key. Eating treats shouldn't be seen as 'bad food' just because they're not being eaten to fulfil one of the seven nutrients, it just needs to be eaten alongside a balanced diet.

Young boy sat drinking water from a bottle in the garden.
Image © galitskaya, under a Creative Commons license.

Water:

We need to drink plenty of water to help keep our bodies healthy.

Drinking water is actually quite cool, even if your kids think it tastes a bit boring. Did you know that 70% of your brain is water and the water you drink has probably been around since before the dinosaurs?

Because over half of our bodies are made up of water, drinking plenty is obviously important. According to the NHS, children under 9 should drink 1.2 litres of fluid a day, and those over 9 should drink 1.5 litres. But, they should drink more water around exercise or if they're ill. If your child isn't drinking enough water, eating fruit and vegetables can be a good way to up their intake, or you could encourage them to drink more using different, fun cups and straws.

Young girl, wearing a red swimming cap, swimming in an outdoor pool.
Image © master1305, under a Creative Commons license.

Exercise:

NHS guidelines say that all children between five and 18 should do an hour of exercise every day to keep fit, with some days more vigorous than others. They recommend that three days a week, children should do activities that strengthen muscles or bones. To strengthen muscles they could climb trees or do gymnastics. While to strengthen bones they could run or jump. Why don't you discuss the different forms of exercise that your child takes part in and how these help different parts of their body to remain healthy?

Exercise is important to your child's body because it helps their bone development, blood sugar, and blood pressure regulation. It also sets them up to keep being active and in good health as adults.

Hygiene:

Children need to understand that good hygiene helps reduce the change of getting ill. To do this, we need to regularly wash our hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet or touch something dirty, or before eating or preparing food. We should also use clean tissues if to wipe a nose or cover a cough or sneeze. This tissue should go straight into the bin and we should wash our hands after.

To take care of our health and body, we should also take regular showers or baths to keep our skin clean and brush our teeth twice a day to remove plaque and prevent the need for fillings.

Top Tip: To make brushing your child's teeth more fun, you could pick a song that's around the recommended two minutes for your children to listen to while brushing their teeth.

Little girl lying in bed smiling and cuddling her teddy bear.
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Sleep:

Sleep is just as important for our (especially children's) bodies and health as what we eat and how much we exercise. Lack of sleep could make us more stressed, forgetful, and unmotivated. So enough sleep is necessary for both mental and physical development.

While every child is different and there is no clear rule for how much a child should sleep, the NHS recommends that children between seven and 11 should sleep for between nine and a half and ten and a half hours. To encourage your children to sleep, it's good to have a relaxing bed routine which is consistent so it becomes a habit. For example, start to dim the lights an hour before bed, give them a warm bath, or do some breathing exercises.

Glossary Of Terms

Carbohydrates: A type of nutrient which gives you lots of energy.

Proteins: A type of nutrient that supports the growth of your muscles.

Lipids: Fats and oil you eat to protect your organs and regulate your body temperature.

Minerals: Things like calcium and iron that you need to eat to help support your health.

Vitamins: Different vitamins are needed to support different aspects of health in your body like vitamin A is good for eyesight and supporting your immune system.

Dietary fibre: We need enough fibre for keeping a healthy digestive system.

Plaque: A layer of bacteria that grows on your teeth and needs to be brushed away with toothpaste.

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Disclaimer

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