What Do Kids Know About Health?

TIME For Kids and KidsHealth.org conducted a survey to find out

May 02, 2011 | By Suzanne Zimbler

TIME For Kids and KidsHealth.org were wondering: When it comes to health-related issues, how knowledgeable are kids? We conducted a survey to find out.

We asked more than 10,000 kids 21 questions about fitness, nutrition and healthy habits. Their answers impressed us. They showed that kids know a lot about staying healthy and that they want to learn even more.

"Kids have a really strong basis of health knowledge," says Dr. Mary Lou Gavin, a pediatrician and a medical editor for KidsHealth.org.

Your Health I.Q.

When it's time to select a snack or pick an activity, many kids would like to make a healthy choice. But to do that, they need information. In other words, when it comes to health, knowledge is power. That's good news, because it turns out that kids have a lot of health-related knowledge.

They are smart about nutrition. More than nine out of 10 kids are aware that water is a healthier drink than soda and that a plain potato is better for you than chips. About 88% of kids answered correctly that vitamin C makes an orange a healthy snack option. And nearly 85% know that the best way to get to a healthy weight is by exercising and eating a balanced diet.

Kids also scored high on questions about the body. Nine out of 10 know what a brain looks like. Just as many can tell you where the heart is located. And a similar number can identify which organ is most affected by smoking: the lungs. (Click here to test your Health I.Q.)

Healthy Habits

Does all of this knowledge lead to healthy habits? In many cases, it does. About 85% of kids read the nutrition facts on their food packages at least some of the time. Most kids (87%) say they would rather go outside and play than stay inside and watch a movie. Many (85%) are willing to try new fruits and vegetables too.

Health-smart kids know that staying well involves more than choosing nutritious food and being active. Dentists say it is important to brush your teeth at least twice a day. Three out of four kids brush that much or more.

Hand washing matters too. More than four out of five kids say they wash their hands after using the bathroom. But only seven out of ten do so before they eat. This is one area where some kids could do better. "You don't want to be too obsessive about hand washing," Dr. Gavin told TFK. But it is important, she says, "particularly after going to the bathroom and before eating."

Goals for Good Health

When it comes to making positive changes, kids are up for the challenge. While about a third of kids described their health as excellent, most kids said their health is pretty good. "They're saying there is room for improvement," says Dr. Gavin.

Kids told us which goals they want help achieving. Learning how to cook is at the top of the list. Many kids would also like to get more exercise, eat better and learn to play new sports. How will you reach the health goals on your list? Asking for an adult's support is a great way to get started.

This survey was conducted online from March 28, 2011, to April 25, 2011, among a sample of 10,098 children ages 7-13. To learn more about the survey, visit kidshealth.org/healthsurvey.