If there’s one thing 2020 has taught parents, it’s that it’s never too early to start teaching children healthy habits.
While the main focus for children during the pandemic has been hand washing and covering coughs, it might have gotten you thinking about other routines to incorporate.
Perhaps remote learning has you thinking more about the benefits of exercise and ways to keep the kids active. Or maybe you’ve decided to take this extra quality time to find fun ways to teach them a brushing and flossing routine.
Teaching healthy habits is a great start, but in order to really help these lessons in self-care stick for your kids, you’ll need to demonstrate them too.
While children can be receptive to being told things or even guided through doing it themselves, a large portion of their behavioral development is based on imitation, or observational learning.
Luckily, your kids won’t imitate everything they see. Oftentimes for a behavior to become consistent, they need to see someone else not only demonstrating it, but being rewarded for it as opposed to suffering consequences for it. So if a friend jumps off the monkey bars and hurts his wrist, chances are your child will stick to the swings.
On the flip side, if they see you demonstrating healthy habits like staying active and eating well — in effect living a happy, energetic and fulfilling life, they’re much more likely to make healthy choices as well.
When it comes to teaching kids these healthy habits, it can be hard to know where to start. Improving nutrition, exercise, and mental health are all ways to get healthy. That’s where we come in.
Enjoy these easy ways to start modeling a healthy lifestyle for your kids.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
If there’s one New Year’s resolution you stick to, it should probably be to get outside more.
Just ask pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom, author of bestselling book Balanced and Barefoot. According to Hanscom, “Movement through active free play, especially outside, improves everything from creativity and academic success to emotional stability.”
Hanscom says that for optimal development and mental health care, kids should play outside around 3 hours a day (with plenty of sunscreen of course).
Being outside, like other healthy habits, will be great for the entire family. Studies show spending time outside:
- Improves your focus by providing a refreshing escape from screens and other daily activities that can cause stress.
- Improves mood by lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels, a stress hormone that triggers the “fight or flight” response.
- Helps lower risk of disease by increasing your intake of Vitamin D, which has been shown to prevent everything from osteoporosis to cancer. Natural light is also shown to help the body heal more quickly from illness and injuries.
Now that kids don’t have recess at school, getting outside with them 3 hours a day might seem daunting. But with a few slight adjustments, it can become an easy habit to pick up:
- When weather permits, bring your yoga routine or at-home workouts
- Plan a few camping trips in a national park or in your own backyard.
- Fire up the grill for dinner more often, letting the kids run around freely while you cook.
- Install a tether ball pole, volleyball net, or other fun outdoor activities where you and the kids can build your skills.
- Start a garden and rotate responsibilities.
- Visit a botanic garden or arboretum.
- Kick off family movie or game night with a walk around the neighborhood.
- Move your work and/or their schoolwork outside for the day.
Get More Sleep
When life is stressful it seems like sleep should be your last priority. There’s just too much to get done in too little time.
No matter what the circumstances are, sleep should be a priority for you and your family. Putting aside for other tasks can actually cause you to become more unproductive.
Even if it seems like you’re doing your work or tasks while sleep deprived, chances are you’re not doing them well. Sleep deprivation comes with a handful of serious issues, including:
- Memory loss
- Lack of focus
- Weakened immunity
- Lack of balance
- Risk of heart disease
- Weight gain
The same goes for your kids. In fact, even more so.
While we need about 8 hours of sleep a night, kids need a bit more. Lack of sleep has been determined by some studies to be the number one determining factor for failing grades in school.
Babies and toddlers require about 11-14 hours, ages 3-5 require 10-13, and kids 6 and up need 9-10 hours.
While you may be putting them to bed by bedtime every night, you staying up long after them and pushing through your exhaustion the next day also sends a message—one that says sleep might not be as important as it sounds.
Next time you’re facing a family meltdown, you might want to save folding laundry for tomorrow and allow yourselves an hour or two of restful quiet time.
It can also help to optimize your bedtime routine. Try to avoid screens during the 2 hours leading up to bedtime.
Light from screens can throw off the internal clock that determines whether it’s daytime or nighttime, and make it harder for everyone to drift off.
Take More Water Breaks
Studies show 20% of children and over 50% of adults don’t drink enough water. It seems we take for granted the endless health benefits water provides.
Not getting enough water every now and then can come with quite a few consequences for your kids. It can cause obesity, exhaustion, moodiness and lack of focus. And long-term dehydration can interfere with the functions of their liver, kidney, brain and digestive system.
But with an endless array of sugary drinks, milk, and other beverages, how do you convince kids to stick to water
One major reason kids don’t drink water much is because they simply don’t understand the importance of it. Read books, watch videos, and play games that center around the importance of staying hydrated.
Kids should drink one 8oz glass of water for each year they’ve been alive. For example, your 4-year-old should have at least 4 glasses of water a day. Adults should drink about an ounce of water for each pound of body weight.
Keep track of this by creating a chart with 1 box for each glass of water your child needs to drink and doing the same for yourself.
After you each finish a glass of water, you can choose a sticker to mark off the slot on the chart. Plan a healthy prize for when you’ve both reached your goals!
Running Out of Ideas? Try Virtual Learning
Kids need a lot of sitmulation and new challenges. As a parent, you may plan a week full of fun activities to do with your kids that they may churn through in a day, leaving you stumped for what to do next.
For these moments, it’s good to have backup plan.
Stay active this winter with our virtual learning classes that are fun for the whole family! Dance, gymnastics, NinjaZone and more, on demand. Sign up for virtual classes >