The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends children see a physician for well-child visits four times during the toddler years: at 24 months, 30 months, 3 years and 4 years of age. That’s in addition to any regular office visits for illness or injury. As part of the Affordable Care Act, these visits are available at no cost to families through most insurance plans.
During a well-child visit, your child’s provider will perform a full physical evaluation, listening to his or her stomach, heart and breath, taking his or her temperature, and examining his or her eyes, nose, teeth, tongue and ears. He or she will also check your child’s weight, height, head circumference and body mass index, and compare them to the average for other children of the same age, creating a growth chart. Any necessary immunizations will be administered.
You will likely be asked questions about your child’s home environment, eating patterns, physical and mental development, and access to public services. Their provider is trying to capture a complete image of their health at this moment, spot any potential health issues or risks, and help you keep your child healthy for a long time to come.
Seeing a healthcare provider can be traumatic for a child, especially during the toddler years when children are still figuring out the world. For the best outcome, prepare your child for the visit.
Talk with your child using simple words about where you are going, what the provider will be doing and why the visit is a good thing—to help keep them healthy and strong. Tell him or her what part of the body will be touched, such as explaining where an immunization will be given or how a tape measure will be put around her head, to avoid any surprises the day of the checkup. Practice these things at home.
Toddlers thrive when they get to be involved in the decision-making process. Let them choose the bandage that goes on the immunization site or pick a place to get a treat after the visit.
Prepare to play your part by writing a list of questions to go over with the provider. Ask about illnesses popping up in the area, sleep patterns, potty training, social troubles or anything else you need additional information on. Together, you can make the most of well-child visits.