For children from birth to 2 years, wellbeing is multi-dimensional covering physical, social, and emotional welfare. Domínguez-Serrano, del Moral-Espín and Gálvez (2019) argued that children’s wellbeing is determined by things they are able to become and what they can do right now and in the future. The way their present abilities affect the future potential also matters. After reviewing the relevant literature, Domínguez-Serrano et al. (2019) reported that children value leisure and physical activities and mental health. Children’s thoughts, sensing, play, and imagination should be considered. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) offers guidance for delivering health services to children and formulation of public policies that relate to the health of children (Waterston & Goldhagen, 2007).

Leone, Pesce, and Capranica (2016) explained that CRC recognizes physical activity, recreational activities, leisure, play, and rest rights of children that are directly connected to good health. Lifelong wellbeing of children as well as healthy development and strong growth are determined by good nutrition and a lot of exercise. Tandon et al. (2016) explained that experiences in early life determine how a child develops and the status of their health. In particular, the authors argued that food choices and frequency of physical activity from childhood will help to prevent obesity.

Phillips, Fisher, Baum, MacDougall, Newman, & McDermott (2016) explained that although majority of Australian children are safe and healthy, some children’s wellbeing is affected by the poor environments in which they live and the circumstances of their families. Phillips et al. (2016) explained that social determinants of health include the socio-economic status of parents, environmental conditions that affect food production, access to health services, and early childhood development.

Nutrition to Physical Health and Wellbeing of Children 0 to 2 Years Old

The World Health Organisation (2009) explained that the nutrition a child receives during infancy and childhood directly impact growth, their health, and overall development. In other words, the World Health Organisation (WHO) explained that illnesses risk rises with poor nutrition and this situation could result in deaths of children aged 2 years and younger. Generally, nutritional deficits in younger ages leads to growth and health impairments in later ages. WHO associates malnutrition in the initial 2 years with stunted growth, poor intellectual performance, and lesser ability to engage in physical work. The child’s proper growth and development is shaped by optimal feeding during the first two years.

Breastfeeding is, particularly, important during this stage and could prevent 13% of deaths (World Health Organisation, 2009). Proper choices of complimentary feeding may as well reduce the death rates within this age group by 6%. Hurley, Yousafzai, & Lopez-Boo (2016) also agreed that poor nutrition in the form of undernutrition or over-nutrition could result in poor development of children younger than 5 years. Hurley and colleagues explained that poor nutrition and lack of adequate opportunities for early learning may result in loss of the proper health and disparities in economic situation in the long run. On the other hand, optimal nutrition and early learning opportunities lead to positive development of children. Gallotta et al. (2016) also explained that reduced physical activity and poor nutrition lead to childhood obesity.

Nutrition and exercise directly affect development of cognitive ability. Allen and Kelly (2015) explained the implicit theories, stating that children’s mind development begin in infancy. One of the implicit theories that is directly associated with early infancy is the theory of the mind. Under this theory, people associate the behaviour of others with the need to fulfil particular goals, intentions, and emotions. A study conducted on young children revealed that they develop this line of reason at a very early age, and nutrition contributes to this. This theory dictates how children respond to other individuals and the knowledge they gain from such people. An example is how a child looks to the mother’s direction when a stranger appears before them, and how attentively the child listens to what the mother says under such circumstances. The mind theory also affects development of language and literacy.

Healthy Eating and Types of Food

Dwyer (2018) explained that many changes happen between the times a child is born to the first time they go to school. The main transformations involve growth, nutrition, eating habits, and other areas of development. In specific, the eating style is influenced by the rapid changes in feeding practices, food programmes, and family income. Birch and Doub (2014) also stated that rapid changes in eating habits and development happen within the initial 2 years of life. Eating behaviour also undergo significant changes at this stage as the child transitions from breast milk to its substitutes and later complementary foods. During this stage, it is critical to monitor how the children eat and the nature the food they consume because it affects health.

Improper eating habits should be prevented and evidence-based feeding be encouraged. The study by Dwyer (2018) revealed that infants should be breastfed and may consume substitutes of breast milk. It is also during infancy that complementary foods are introduced. Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding is an initiative that was undertaken by WHO and UNICEF in 2002 to emphasise importance of feeding and its benefits on health, nutritional condition, growth, and infants’ survival (World Health Organisation, 2009). Under the initiative, the organisations set the exclusive breastfeeding to last 180 days or 6 months. After this time, complementary feeding should begin and continue to 2 years and beyond.

Breast milk substitutes include infant formulas that are iron-fortified and cow milk. According to Dwyer (2018) cow milk should be introduced when the child is about 12 months old. The author also noted that complementary feeding is an area that is currently under study and ongoing discussions. Dwyer also added that some infants consume puréed baby meats that are also rich in iron. Fruits, vegetables, and fruit juice may as well be introduced during infancy. Dwyer (2018) also raised concern over fruit-flavoured drinks and cereals that are already sweetened, calling them improper complementary foods. Whole grains may also be considered at this stage. Such inappropriate foods may cause obesity. Examples of the whole grains include mostly cereals, pasta, bagel, bread, rice, and rolls. Proteins are also important part of infants’ diet. The proteins include nuts, seafood, soy, lean meat, seeds, and legumes. When feeding children of this age, however, care must be taken to ensure they do not take excess sodium or saturated fats.

Importance of Exercise

Australian Government (2021) explains that physical activity is crucial to babies and young children as it helps with healthy growth and great habits. In children, physical activity is conducted through unstructured active play. They move around so much and this helps with maintenance of a healthy weight, boosting of emotional and mental wellbeing, strengthening of muscles and bones, improved learning and reasoning, and decreased injuries. During the first 12 months, the Health Depart of Australian Government recommends that caregivers and parents supervise their children as they play on the floor and that there be about 30 minutes tummy time (characterised by grasping of objects and movement of legs and arms). Adding to this, Veldman, Chin, and Altenburg (2021) stated that toddlers or children of 1 to 2 years of age should be active for about 180 minutes each day.

During the time, they will run, skip, and jump around. An important point to remember is that there should be adequate sleep all through the ages. Quality sleep leads to good health of children. According to Veldman et al. (2021) physical activity of children affects psychosocial wellbeing, metabolic health, cognitive, and motor development. Bone and skeletal muscle development have as well been associated with regular physical activity. Both Carson et al. (2017) and Veldman et al. (2021) agree that the relationship between infant physical activity and health implications have not been properly researched. In other words, there are not many studies on this topic and the findings made by previous studies may not be considered conclusive as of now. Still, the importance of the early ages in the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development cannot be ignored.

Carson et al. (2017) and Veldman et al. (2021) believe that it is possible to tell if a child had an active or inactive childhood by simply looking at how they play and relate with others at school. That is, children that jump, run, and throw or kick balls are those that remained active as toddlers while others that prefer watching television were inactive toddlers. The latter category is also connected with obese children. However, to determine the actual impact of the physical activity, there is a need to measure the intensity, duration, and frequency of the physical activity (Veldman et al., 2021). In particular, the type of physical activity such as outdoor play and structured physical activity should be studied against health indicators like psychosocial health, motor, and cognitive development.

Educational Implications

Capabilities of children are directly influenced and transformed by their parents and teachers (Domínguez-Serrano et al., 2019). It must also be remembered that children have the potential to reproduce or transform the present situations. If the children’s present conditions are not favourable, therefore, there is a need to show them the correct examples of living. This can happen through parents and caregivers education. The knowledge of parents in this area are important for eliminating the negative health outcomes due to poor diet and sedentary lifestyles like cardio-metabolic issues, ineffective bone mineralization, behavioural issues, and reduced self-esteem (Gallotta et al., 2016).

The educational interventions could also help train children in good habits, which are generally difficult to grasp in adulthood. Teaching nursing mothers and caregivers of toddlers the necessary practices may help will ensure that children learn the good healthy habits before reaching school-going age. This may also reduce the burden placed on schools, and incorporating only a few relevant programmes at school level will help them attain the positive change in numbers of overweight children.

Health professional also need to be educated on the application of CRC when delivering services to the children. Proper knowledge will enable the professionals to understand the children’s rights to good health and integrate it with equity and social justice (Waterston & Goldhagen, 2007). Thorough training should be offered to the health professionals to achieve this goal. For example, CRC knowledge enables physicians to diagnose diseases and identify ill-health to get rid of social and environmental threats to children’s wellbeing (Waterston & Goldhagen, 2007). The guidelines also help health professionals to recognize the rights of children.

Support from relevant organisations will help caregivers to overcome environmental challenges such as pollution, social harms, and norms that limit children from staying physically active. Leone et al. (2016) explained that the belief that the environment is unsafe prevents parents from letting their children to fully enjoy physical activity. For example, the belief that roads are not safe cause parents to pay for transportation to school. Children that do not get the chance to walk to school become physically inactive and unhealthy.

Removal of the environmental threats will, thus, benefit children by making parents more confident. As Leone et al. (2016) discussed, children should get opportunities for playing and participating in other recreational activities. They should also develop the skills that enable them to initiate play, physical activities, and be confident to take part in playful cultural interactions. Again, children’s right to rest should be respected as this allows them to build the energy and motivation that enable them to take part in creative engagement and play.

Conclusion

Wellbeing of a child refers to their overall health status and how satisfied they are with the quality of life. On the other hand, children’s health is determined by their nutrition pattern and their physical activity. Nutrition refers to the type of food a child consumes. Healthy food types lead to good health in children while unhealthy food increase a child’s exposure to obesity.

Even more, lack of adequate food or malnutrition is dangerous and could cause stunted growth in children. Again, the physically active children are healthy and face lower risk of obesity. This shows that sedentary lifestyles of toddlers negatively affect them later on in life. From this explanation, it is apparent that both nutrition and exercise are important for health and wellbeing of toddlers and infants. Parents, teachers, and relevant organisation can help children achieve healthy living if they understand the rights of children.