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Get Fit 2010: Keeping kids healthy

In Life + Health this month, we're focusing on health and fitness. We'll target a specific generation each week. We start with kids today. On May 11, we'll focus on the health and fitness of teens; on May 18, adults; and on May 25, seniors. Some of the eight tips we'll give will be new; some will be gentle reminders. All of it is geared toward making us all healthier and more fit.

1. TV time out: In general, kids watch too much TV — three or four hours a day too much. So here's a plan to cut back: Position your furniture so that the TV is not the main focus of the room, and remove TVs from bedrooms. Plan your watching in advance by picking shows you really want to see. Then turn off the TV. Seriously. Spend family time together reading a book aloud.

2. The right fit: Finding good child care can be a challenge, but Kentucky has a voluntary rating system, STARS, that can help. Child care centers must meet all minimum certification requirements but are additionally given as many as four stars for staff-to-child ratio, staff education, and personnel practices and curriculum. Find STAR-rated centers and homes by entering "Kentucky" and child care and STARS in a search engine.

3. No, no, baby: It's easy to assume that your baby should love the foods you do, but here are some foods to avoid in the first few months: Bacon, lunch meat, hot dogs, french fries, creamed vegetables, pudding, cookies, candy and sweetened fruit juice.

4. De-caf: First, good news: Caffeine won't stunt growth. Bad news? Caffeinated drinks contain empty calories, and kids who grow up on them don't get the vitamins and minerals they need. Drinking too much soda usually starts between third and eighth grades. Try flavored water or even — gasp! — pure H20 instead.

5. Myth buster: It is neither "starve a fever, feed a cold," nor "feed a fever, starve a cold." Fevers and colds both require adequate nutrition. Kids might not want to eat when feeling yucky, but it's important to encourage them to try, especially to drink fluids so they don't become dehydrated.

6. Say what? From boogers to bones, the interactive feature "How the Body Works" at kidshealth.org gives fun explanations for all things good, gross and otherwise.

7. Cows and more: Yes, kids can still raise cattle and chickens, but 4-H also offers education on everything from baking to starting a business. Check out all the options of this 101-year-old organization at www.ca.uky.edu/agcollege/4h/or call (859) 257-5961.

8. In the swim: The second-leading cause of death of children ages 1 to 14 is drowning. Find swimming lessons for the child in your life by contacting the YMCA, www.ymcaofcentralky.org, or call the High Street branch at (859) 254-9622 for referrals to other locations. Many local parks and recreation departments also offer swimming classes. Registration for Lexington Parks & Recreation swim lessons will be offered online beginning at noon Thursday.

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