Teaching your kids healthy habits when they’re young is so beneficial for their growth. They will carry the habits they learn when they are young—good or bad—with them for the rest of their lives. However, to teach them these healthy habits, you should strive to practice them too.
And while there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method for what you teach your kids and how, here are some important healthy habits to get you started.
Putting Limits on TV, Video Game and Computer Time
If limits aren’t set on TV, video game and computer time, you’ll see the beginnings of your couch potato kid. The Mayo clinic reports that kids who sit and watch more than an hour of television a day may be at greater risk for behavioral difficulties, impaired performance at school, obesity, less time to play and irregular sleep. They are even at a greater risk of developing tooth decay. Limit these combined activities to two hours a day.
Don’t just make your child be more physically active, be more physically active yourself. Plan family time where you can take a walk, ride your bikes, garden, play hide-and-seek or go swimming. It will benefit everyone. During these outings, help your son or daughter find a physical activity they really love so they’ll practice it their whole life. If they don’t find it during family time, try out some other physical activities like soccer or baseball that they might enjoy. They may not be an athlete, but every child enjoys some type of physical activity. Help them find it.
Begin reading to your child every day when they are six months old. Daily family reading helps children’s literacy development, which is the foundation of a child’s academic success. When you begin reading to your child, choose books your child enjoys so reading is something they look forward to and not something they dread.
Make mealtimes—even breakfast—a regular routine. Your kids will be more likely to adopt this habit if they’ve grown up practicing it. Breakfast is the most skipped meal of the day and the most needed. Teach your kids to eat a low-fat breakfast in the morning because it will give them energy for the day. An added health benefit of breakfast is that many cereals are high in fiber and can help reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Your child will also be much fuller after eating a good meal in the morning so that they don’t overeat at lunch or when they get home from school.
Make dinner intentional. Have family dinner where everyone comes and sits together. When you all eat together, there is less of a chance that your child will end up snacking too much or eating unhealthy foods. You should even get them involved in cooking and planning the meal. They may look forward to it more if they get to help plan and prepare it. On occasion, as you’re preparing the food, think about the color choices. When you make your meal more colorful by adding different fruits and vegetables, you not only make it more fun but you make it more healthful as well. From these times, you can also teach your children about nutrition and the importance of incorporating these foods into their diet.
An important healthy habit to get your kids started on when they are young is maintaining good oral health. Show them the proper way to brush and floss their teeth and encourage them to do so daily. They should be brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day. You’ll also want to make sure you are taking them to the dentist every six months for checkups so your dentist can keep a close eye on their dental health. Need help making it more fun? Start by getting them a fun toothbrush for that extra incentive to go brush their teeth.
Friendships are healthy, especially for the development of young children. When your children play with their friends, they’re learning important social skills, including: communication, problem-solving and cooperation. Having good friendships in school may also affect their performance academically. Friendships can help your child develop important life skills that will help them in school, work, marriage, etc. Encourage them to play with their friends and develop a variety of friendships. Help them understand the difference between friendships that build up and friendships that bring you down. You want them to have friendships that build them up and not place them under peer pressure to do things they shouldn’t be doing.
When you’re trying to cultivate these, or other, healthy habits in your child, set realistic goals and limits for them. These healthy habits won’t happen overnight. Just try maintaining them yourself and you’ll see that it takes a bit of work to fully adopt. By making gradual changes and taking small steps, you’ll be able to see these habits grow.
What are some healthy habits you have taught your kids? Was it hard to follow them yourself?