It’s important to teach your kids healthy habits at an early age so these habits become as natural to them as breathing. According to FamilyDoctor.org, there are three main areas that are important for parents to focus on when teaching their children healthy habits: nutrition, physical activity, and sleep.
Let’s break them down.
The food you choose to stock your home with as well as consume sets the example for your child's eating habits throughout their lives. It’s fine to have treats in moderation, but if all you have are sugary or salty snacks in the house, your children will think that these are acceptable choices instead of healthier options like fruits, nuts, and veggies.
Some ways to help your child develop healthy food habits are:
- Cook together as a family - Kids love to create and if they can cook their own food they are more likely to consume it and feel proud of their creation. Depending on their age, you can teach them skills such as mixing, stirring, and setting the oven timer. When a child learns to cook and have fun cooking, they develop a healthy relationship with food and learn valuable skills for the future. They also learn proper kitchen safety techniques for when they’re old enough to cook on their own.
- Go food shopping with your child - Planning what to cook and buying it together gives your child a sense of empowerment. Teach your child how to read nutrition labels and explain how they need a variety of foods with a certain degree of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Show them how to check sugar and salt content so they develop the habit of looking at these labels every time they shop as an adult. This will lead them to choose healthier options.
2. Physical Activity
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the amount of activity a child needs depends on how old they are, but some activity is necessary for all kids. Toddlers and preschoolers should be active throughout the entire day, while school-aged children need a minimum of 60 minutes of intense physical activity daily.
Some examples of intense physical activity include:
- Aerobic activity - This activity can be walking, running, or any movement that gets the heart pumping faster
- Strengthening the muscles - This can include lifting light weights, climbing, or doing push-ups
- Bone strengthening - this includes jumping or climbing
It’s important to remember that your child is growing, developing, and learning which activities feel good for their young bodies. Do not push them to do 50 push-ups if they don’t want to. Come up with a different activity or approach that makes exercising fun.
This area may be the most important because, without enough sleep, your child may not have the energy or desire to develop healthy habits. Sleep is one of the most important factors when it comes to the physical and emotional health of any child.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are six important steps for getting a good night's sleep that a parent can pass along to their child. Children are sponges and they notice everything their parents do. If you make the effort to develop better sleeping habits, then they will follow your lead. Guiding your child through these steps together will help both of you develop healthy sleep habits that are second nature.
- Develop and keep a sleep schedule for your child.
- Make sure your child has enough time to digest dinner and a pre-bedtime snack (if they need one) before they hit the hay.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment.
- Eliminate naps if your child is old enough to forgo their afternoon snooze. If your child requires naps, do not get rid of them. This only applies to older children. Naps are an important part of baby and toddler development.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of physical activity so their mind and body are both tired.
- Clear their mind of any worries.
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Why Teaching Good Habits Early is the Way to Go
Think of a time as an adult when you tried to quit a habit that was years in the making. How difficult was it? Were you successful or did it take a few tries? Teaching healthy habits right from the start and being consistent with them will help your children develop better lifestyles with fewer bad habits to break in adulthood.