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Keeping healthy physical health

Health services are still operating normally for children. Nothing has changed in the way you seek help, either via 111, your local pharmacy, your GP or in an emergency from accident and emergency (A and E). Some care will be delivered differently - for example, you may be offered a telephone or video consultation with your GP rather than an automatic face-to-face appointment and some A and E departments are not open for children. If you do need a face-to-face appointment, it might be at a different surgery to where you normally attend.

Do not attend your GP practice if you or your child have any symptoms of coronavirus without speaking to your doctor first.

In such uncertain times, it is more important than ever that we keep our children and ourselves physically healthy by eating well and being active. It will do so much more than keep you and your family fit, it will; increase energy levels, improve mood, concentration for learning and sleep as well as positively affecting overall health and wellbeing. 

We have a variety of activities and tips, links and resources with great ideas for you to do either as a family or for your children, whatever their age, so take a look, choose an activity and have fun!

Health services for children

Do not delay calling your GP if you are concerned about your child’s health. If you need immediate assistance, dial 999 or attend A&E. Hospital is still the safest place for your child if they are seriously ill.

If you are worried about your child, you should access health services in the same way you would normally:

  • Refer to NHS online for general health information, including relating to coronavirus, to check symptoms and find out the right steps to take.This poster might also help.
  • If necessary phone your GP to discuss your concerns, who will advise on appropriate care or treatment and may ask to see your child at the surgery for further assessment.
  • You can also phone 111 for further advice but please be aware that this service is busy.
  • If you need immediate assistance dial 999 or attend an accident and emergency department

Hospital is still the safest place for your child if they are seriously ill. Accident and Emergency services for children and young people are temporarily closed at UCLH and the Royal Free Hospital. There are children and young people’s emergency departments at:

  • Whittington Hospital
  • Barnet Hospital
  • North Middlesex University Hospital
  • St Mary’s Hospital
  • Royal London Hospital

Whittington Health has a website for their children and young people’s services, including for health visiting, infant feeding, child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and children’s community nursing.

Health visitors are back to working with parents face to face if you are happy to see them in your home or in a clinic setting. If you know your health visitor call the number given to you in your red book otherwise use the general number 020 3316 8008 or one of the three duty lines operating between 9am-5pm:

  • Bingfield Health Centre: 020 7527 1610
  • River Place: 020 3316 8461
  • Highbury Grange Health Centre 020 3316 8012

School nurses are working in schools and clinical settings offering support, advice and workshops on issues such as Covid 19, bed wetting, managing minor illnesses, head lice, fussy eating, hand washing. If you have a health query or concern about your child in school please contact the team via the school office or directly on 020 3316 8021, by email or complete the referral form.

For breastfeeding support, please see The Breastfeeding Network website or contact the peer support team on 020 3316 8439.

Maternity COVID advice

For advice and information on maternity during the coronavirus pandemic visit Whittington maternity services.


Routine childhood vaccinations

Vaccinations protect children against serious infectious diseases. It is important to make sure babies are protected as early as possible.

Childhood vaccinations continue as normal for children under age 5. You will be invited by your GP and should attend your appointment to keep your babies’ vaccinations up to date. Contact your GP if you think your child has missed any vaccinations.

School age vaccinations are now being delivered again in school, and you will be contacted by the school vaccination service if your child is due a vaccination. If you think your child has missed any school-age vaccinations, catch-up clinics are available. Contact the Islington school vaccination team: Vaccination UK on 020 8017 7925 or Email:

Important vaccinations are due throughout childhood so please find out about the full schedule.

Flu vaccinations

Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter, which is why it’s sometimes called seasonal flu. It’s a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly. It is a very unpleasant illness for anyone, and for our more vulnerable family members can be dangerous.

We have a safe and effective vaccine for flu and this year, more than ever, it is important for everyone who is eligible for the vaccine to have it, and to limit the spread of flu. Those at increased risk from flu are eligible for a free vaccine. Younger children are also offered the vaccination to protect themselves, but also to reduce the spread to other children and to parents and grandparents.

Those eligible for a free vaccine include:

  • People aged 65 and over
  • People with certain health conditions
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Those living with someone at high risk of coronavirus
  • Children aged 2-4 (not yet in school) – from your GP
  • All children in school from reception to year 7 – at school

Full details of who can have the vaccine and where to get it: for adults and for children.

Tips on cooking at home with children

There’s never been a better time to get children involved in cooking; now the children are at home, you have to give them three meals a day, so why not get them involved in preparing those meals? Children of all ages can get involved.

There’s lots to learn, and everyday experiences are learning opportunities too! This might be helping out peeling veg, mixing ingredients, washing up, setting the table. It will provide children with lots of skills for the future.

Children are also much more likely to try the food they have been involved in preparing. So don’t just bake a cake but get them involved in preparing vegetables and cooking savoury dishes.

Keep things simple to start with while you learn how to prepare and cook together. You may want to start by making sandwiches, fill pitta pockets or wraps. Make sure to include some vegetables and you have a healthy meal.

Things might get a little messy when preparing and cooking food but show your children how to tidy up as you go along.

Don’t panic if things go wrong. Even if your dish does not quite look like the picture, you will have had fun and learned some lessons for the next time.

Cooking safely with children

Always make sure that you supervise children and follow some simple rules:

Store food safely: keep cooked and raw ingredients covered, and separate while being stored and prepared. Store raw meat in the bottom of the fridge and cooked meat above.

Safe peeling and chopping always use a chopping board to chop, not in your hand. Make sure you role-model good cutting techniques to your children as they will copy whatever you do.

Use the bridge technique for cutting large items into smaller manageable chunks and the claw technique for cutting food into small pieces. These cutting techniques will make sure that you and your child will keep fingers out of the way of the blade while cutting.

Using heat: children aged six to 11 years old should not be cooking hot food but they can watch you using the hob, toaster, microwave and oven.

Try and adjust oven shelves before turning the oven on and use oven gloves when taking dishes in and out of the oven.

Turn pan handles inwards so they are not hanging over the side of the hob.

When tasting food, make sure that the food has cooled down enough not to scold and make sure that the spoon used for tasting does not go back into the pot or pan.

Cooking tasks for different age groups

Six to 11 year olds
Children at this age can start to chop and peel with your supervision; after you have shown them how to do so safely.

They can weigh ingredients and measure liquids, and you can link this to maths (doubling a recipe or counting in 25g on the butter wrapper).

Crushing garlic, mixing and kneading, beating an egg, squeezing a lemon, sifting flour, grating carrots, rolling out pastry, rubbing-in butter and mashing potatoes are all fun activities for children to do as part of helping to prepare and cook food. At this age, your children should not be cooking hot food but they can watch you using the hob, toaster, microwave and oven.

12 to 18 year olds
Your teenager will be able to start cooking a meal; some will need more help or for you to supervise, others will be more independent. Build up their confidence to get them to cook things they love. Whilst they are unable to go out and have take-away food why not get them to make their own such as pizza, chips and breaded fish fingers or Thai green currychicken tikka masala and rice.

Cooking on a budget

At the moment, some food prices have gone up and it is not easy to shop around for the best deal. Below are some tips on keeping food costs down:

  • Cook from scratch – this is cheaper and healthier than buying ready-made meals.
  • Cook in bulk – split the meals into portions and put in containers to cool down. Freeze the portions once cold within two hours. Never re-freeze food that has been thawed.
  • Buy own-brand goods – the quality is generally the same as popular brands but cheaper in price.
  • Buy saver versions of some food items such as canned vegetables, beans, tomatoes, frozen vegetables, dried pasta, rice, cheese or yoghurt. If you can, avoid saver products on processed foods such as sausages or burgers as they are more likely to be high in fat and salt and lower in nutrient.
  • Keep food fresh – store fresh vegetables in the fridge in a plastic bag but keep bread outside the fridge.
  • Cut down on meat – use less meat in dishes by adding more vegetables, peas or beans.
  • Stick to the list – plan your menus for the week and write a shopping list to match.
  • Buy frozen fruits and vegetables, they tend to be cheaper and just as nutritious, with no need for preparation. If you have freezer, you can use the exact amount you need otherwise, keep it in a container in the fridge and use within a couple of days.
  • Avoid pre-cut, pre-peeled and packaged vegetables and fruit: they tend to be more expensive than loose and start losing nutrients as soon as they are prepared.
  • Re-grow your own vegetables from scrap – children will love to watch the magic of growing food.
  • Use leftovers – they form a brilliant base for another meal the next day.

Fussy eating

We all want the best for our child. Healthy choices not only affects your child’s long term health, it also will help your child right now. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise will help children to fight colds and the winter flu. They will feel happier and more confident and be able to learn better.

It is not always easy as some children refuse to eat certain foods and only want to be on screens. Start small, as even small changes can make a big difference. Don’t force your child to eat a particular food or bribe them. The best thing is to provide a variety of healthy foods in a nice atmosphere and not to have foods in the house you do not want your child to eat. Setting a good example yourself will help your child to be healthier as well. If you would more information, these online webinars are packed with useful information about children who are fussy eaters.

Eat together as often as you can, even if it is only once a week. Make sure there are no distractions from mobile devices, TV or toys. If you can show how you enjoy a variety of vegetables and healthy foods, your child is more likely to try some too. Meal times also are also good for your child to learn to talk. They will learn table manners from you and they can practise their speaking and listening skills.

You can talk about why foods are good for you, such as spinach containing iron to make you strong and fit and carrots containing vitamin A to help you see in the dark.

Allow your child to serve themselves during meals, as this gives them control and they may try different kinds of foods. We eat with our eyes as well as our mouth so make dishes look nice and colourful as well as taste good.
Encourage your child to get involved in meal and snacks by taking them to the shop to buy food, involving them in preparing and cooking, and setting the table.

Don’t insist your child cleans their plate and never use food as a reward or bribe. Praise your child for eating well, not for eating all their food.

You and your child might like to join a Families for Life programme to get support around fussy eating, get new recipe ideas and help your family to feel good and live well.

Fussy eaters information sheet for children with autism has useful information on strategies to encourage an autistic child to try new foods as well as explaining issues your autistic child may experience in relation to food.

Meal ideas and recipes

Try and have a regular daily routine for meals, snacks and bed times. It helps everyone. Remember though that if your child is less active than normal they will need smaller portions or may not need any snacks. They will still need all the nutrients to grow, learn and play so it is really important that their food is healthy.

Make time for a healthy breakfast. A good breakfast sets your child up for a good day. If having breakfast cereals, oats, puffed wheat, crisped rice, cornflakes, wheat biscuits and shredded wheat are good choices. Serve with fresh, dried, tinned fruit in juice or a glass of 100% fruit juice (not juice drink as that is high in sugar). Avoid brands that are high in sugar and salt or breakfast cereals marketed at children. If you fancy something different there are plenty of other breakfast ideas available.

Snack: provide food only at meal and snack times. If your child eats all the time (grazing) they are not going to be hungry at mealtimes. Healthy snack ideas include foods such as fresh fruit, tinned fruit in juice with plain yoghurt, raw vegetables, plain crackers such as oatcakes, breadsticks, a glass of semi-skimmed or skimmed milk (if your child is over 5 years of age). Avoid buying foods packaged or marketed as snacks. They tend to be overpriced and high in salt, sugar and/or fat. Don’t give sweet foods, dried fruit or juice as part of a snack as this may cause tooth decay.

Tap water is the best drink for your child. Your child will need about 6 – 8 glasses to drink each day. One of those can be a glass (150 ml) of 100% fruit juice per day, it is a good source of vitamin C but it is also high in sugar so should only be served with meals. Your child can also have one or two glasses of semi-skimmed or skimmed milk (if over 5-years of age) and this can be served as part of a meal or snack. The rest should be water. Try it cooled from the fridge or flavoured with a slice of lemon, cucumber or a sprig of mint. There are no benefits to give your child any other drinks.
Sometimes children think they are hungry when actually they are thirsty so when your child is nagging for food, give them a drink of water first.

There are lots of ideas for healthy recipes online:

Free school meals and further food support

Many families experience difficulties in accessing food at the moment for a wide variety of reasons.

If you are unable to leave your home but have money to pay for food:

  • Do you know anyone who might be able to help you? Maybe family, friends or neighbours who might be able to shop for you.
  • Islington directory outlines a list of local, small independent businesses which offer food deliveries.
  • Community based groups, called mutual aid groups, can assist with necessities such as shopping for families who are self-isolating. Mutual aid groups are listed in the Islington directory.

If you are experience difficulties, including financial, there might be support available for your family:

  • Healthy Start: If you are at least 10 weeks pregnant of have a child under four years old, check if you qualify for Healthy Start. Applying for Healthy Start is easy as you no longer need to have a signature from a health professional.
  • Healthy Start vitamins contain vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. As many of us spend more time indoor, this is a really important vitamin to take. Free Healthy Start vitamins are available in Islington for children under 4 and women who are trying to get pregnant, are pregnant or during the first year after birth. Find out where to get free Healthy Start vitamins.
  • Free school meals for children with families on benefits: If your child was not registered for free school meals previously but your financial situation has changed, you may like to check if you can apply for free school meals for your child.
  • Free school meals for children with no recourse to public funds: during the coronavirus outbreak, free school meal eligibility has been extended to include children of the following groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF):
     - children of Zambrano carers with a maximum household income of £7,400 per year 
     - children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights with a maximum household income of £7,400 per year
     - children of families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who are also subject to a no recourse to public funds restriction with a maximum household income of £31,500 per year
     - children of a subset of failed asylum seekers supported under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. This group is not subject to a maximum household earnings threshold.
  • If you are experiencing difficulties, the We Are Islington helpline enables you to access a broad range of support, including accessing food. We Are Islington can also refer you to the Council’s Resident Support Scheme which can provide temporary financial support if you are facing severe difficulties or if you are in a crisis.
  • There are a number of foodbanks across the borough, which can provide emergency food parcels. An up-to-date map of community food banks is available.
  • SHINE (Seasonal Health Intervention Network) is a fuel poverty referral network and free energy advice service. Residents can call 0300 555 0195 for support.
  • The British Red Cross has a Hardship Fund to provide financial support those who are not in employment or receiving other financial assistance from statutory/voluntary services either due to having no recourse to public funds (NRPF) or delays in receiving benefits. The fund provides short term help for families who cannot afford the essentials such as food, somewhere safe to sleep and fuel. Families can claim up to £1,080 over three months.

Physical activity ideas for under fives

Did you know that 1-5 year old children who are able to walk need 180 minutes of physical activity every day? Why not try some of these ideas with your child, to get you started?

  • Indoor activities for kids
    50 indoor physical activities for pre-school children.
  • Change4life indoor activities
    Try some Disney inspired, indoor activities and games to get toddlers moving!
  • Cosmic kids yoga
    Enjoy a quiet time session with your child, helping them to feel calmer and more relaxed with an under-five’s yoga session.
  • Simon Says
    Join in with your child for lively fun and dancing, encouraging your child to move to the instruction, but only when Simon says!
  • If I were an animal
    A fun game of singing and moving, pretending to be different animals.
  • Indoor exercises
    Little sports offers mini workouts with conventional exercises for you to try with your child.
  • Ten simple exercise with toddlers 
    Isabel Brandon – a mum with a toddler, demonstrates 10 simple exercises to enjoy indoors.

Physical activity for 5-11 years

Ideas for a number of different videos, games, activities or challenges, most suitable for 5 – 11 years old.

  • Jump Rope UK
    Fun and free skipping skills, challenges, tricks and workout plans for all ages and abilities.
  • BBC Super Movers
    Follow along videos for children using themes from BBC television programmes and celebrities.
  • Youth Sport Trust Personal Challenges 
    Short physical activity challenges for a quick activity break. Children can track their scores and practice to improve. Download the full list of challenges from the download list, or visit the webpage for ideas on coming up with your own personal challenges.
  • Tennis at Home
    The Lawn Tennis Association have developed a bank of tennis games, drills and activities to keep practicing at home.
  • Football’s Staying Home
    Football activities created by the FA to keep practicing at home. They also have a new game uploaded to the FA twitter feed at 2pm every day.
  • Get Set Tokyo
    10 minute activities, 30 minute games and holiday activities for at home or in the garden all set to the theme of the Tokyo Olympics.
  • Daily Mile at Home
    Weekly carousel of challenges to engage children and families with the Daily Mile. Run, jog or walk for 15 minutes door to door complying with government guidance.

Physical activity for 11+ years

Different workouts, challenges or resources, most suitable for young people 11 years plus.

  • BBC Get Inspired Workouts
    Short follow along fitness and mobility workout outs led by Team GB athletes.
  • Our Parks
    A range of home-exercise workout videos you can do in the home or garden.
  • Sweaty Betty
    Yoga, mindfulness, dance and general fitness workouts.

Family physical activities

Physical activity as a family can be a good way for you all to keep active, add one or two of these ideas into your daily routine.

  • Change 4 Life
    Change 4 Life and Disney have teamed up to create 10 minute Shake Ups and fun physical activity indoor games.
  • Disney Dance-a-longs
    Simple choreographed dance routines with a Disney theme to follow along. Includes the Jungle Book, Moana, the little mermaid and more.
  • Nike Active Kids do Better
    Fun physical activity games you can do in the living room for all the family to be active together, using little to no equipment.
  • Daily Mile at Home
    Run, jog or walk for 15 minutes door to door, making sure to follow government guidance. There is also a weekly carousel of challenges.

Inclusive physical activities

A number of the activities and challenges above are easily adaptable for any skill or ability. There are also resources available specifically for children and young people with disabilities.

  • Change 4 Life accessible activities
    Change 4 Life have created a number of accessible games for disabled children and young people. The 10 minute Shake Ups, fun physical activity indoor games are also easily adaptable.
  • Train like a Jedi
    A physical activity video from Change 4 Life with a Star Wars theme. Train Like a Jedi is on YouTube and therefore may contain advertising for other Youtube videos, we are not recommending that you follow up any of these.
  • Daily Mile at Home
    Weekly carousel of challenges to for children and families. 15 minutes door-to-door physical activity, suitable for those with disabilities including wheelchairs.

Young people’s sexual health

Camden and Islington young people’s sexual health clinics remain open for young people seeking sexual health and contraception services and advice. All initial patient consultations are carried out over the telephone; following assessment and where needed face to face appointments are offered. Young people can self-refer by calling the clinics before attending.

Pulse 020 7527 1300
Brook Euston 020 7387 8700
Brandon Centre 020 7267 4792

Usual opening times and services may be impacted; any changes and further information is available on their website.

Clinics offer

  • Pregnancy testing, advice and referral
  • Emergency contraception and all forms of regular contraception (including implants and coils)
  • Free condoms and C-Card
  • Testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections
  • Sex and relationship information and support
  • Signposting to other services
  • Counselling and mental health support

Additional sexual health services in Camden and Islington are provided by the Archway and Mortimer Market Centres.

For free condoms, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea testing and emergency contraception young people can also use participating pharmacies; it is advisable to call the pharmacies first as their services may also be impacted by Covid-19.

Brook also have online information on looking after your sexual health when services are limited.

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