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How to Encourage Healthy Habits in Kids

 

Healthy eating and physical activity are essential for children of any age, but these habits aren’t always easy to stick to. In fact, they can be downright boring for little kids. What kid wants to brush their teeth when they could be playing with toy dinosaurs or dolls?

 

As a parent, it’s your responsibility to help your little ones prioritize their physical and mental health. Use the tips below to make healthy habits more fun and help your kids develop routines that will last well into adulthood.

Read Every Day

Both kids and adults can benefit from developing a daily reading habit. Enjoying a good book boosts literacy, sharpens communication skills and increases creativity. However, this activity is even more important for infants and toddlers who are just beginning to understand sounds, words and language. Start them young and read aloud to your little ones every night. If you manage to read five board books or picture books per day, they’ll have heard nearly 1.5 million words by the time they’re five years old.

Sing a Song

Most kids think menial tasks like brushing teet, combing hair and washing hands are boring. Yet, these simple habits are key to maintaining good health. Make them more fun by whistling a tine or singing a song while you brush and scrub. For example, you can sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice while hand washing to ensure they suds up for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. Meanwhile, you’ll have to sing the ABCs three times to brush your teeth for the correct amount of time.

Eat the Rainbow 

Eating foods of all different colors is fun and healthy, especially for young kids. Enjoy all the colors of the rainbow by filling your cart with plenty of fruits and vegetables from the produce aisle. Stick with fresh, whole foods to boost your nutrient intake and nix artificial ingredients. Make an effort to include multiple hues in each meal and let the colors range from red, green orange to blue, white and even purple.

Look at Labels 

Just because something’s colorful doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. Take the cereal aisle for instance. The shelves are brimming with rainbow-colored boxes, but most contain artificial ingredients and way too much sugar. Read the nutrition labels with your kids and discuss nutrients, calories, serving sizes and other important details. As they grow older, you might even ask them to read the label and choose between foods to determine the healthiest option. This habit is one they’ll likely carry into adulthood.

Cater to Their Interests 

Cater to Their Interests One of the best ways to encourage healthy habits in your kids is to choose activities that genuinely interest them. Do they enjoy riding their bike in the driveway? Head to the park and cycle a few miles to really get your hearts pumping and inspire a love for nature. Maybe your children would rather play in the sprinkler or have a water balloon fight. These activities are beneficial, too! Let them choose the activities to boost autonomy and instill lifelong habits.

Limit Screen Time

Most American children spend five to seven hours staring at screens each day. Whether it be a tablet, television, smartphone, computer or all of the above, today’s kids are glued to technology. Ultimately, this habit can cause insomnia, obesity and even anxiety and depression. Help your children prioritize both their physical and mental health by limiting screen time. Ban smartphones from the dinner table, replace TV time with game nights and collect all devices before bedtime to make sure everyone takes a break.

Stick to a Bedtime

Your children probably don’t want to hear it, but sticking to a regular bedtime is good for their health and development. School-aged kids need up to 12 hours of sleep per night, but many get only seven to eight hours. Eventually, these poor sleeping habits can cause mood swings, difficulty concentrating and even a drop in overall school performance. Aim for a bedtime that allows them to get 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night and create a consistent routine to help them wind down beforehand.

Create Challenges 

If your kids have a competitive side and simply refuse to read, exercise, go to bed on time or eat healthy, a series of challenges might boost their motivation. Create a sticker chart to encourage obedience and embracing daily habits like brushing their teeth. Pit siblings against one another to see who can read more books in a month and plan a small surprise for the winner. Daily competitions and challenges like foot races and obstacle courses and can also encourage physical activity.

Setting a Good Example

Kids imitate their parents’ behavior, for better or worse. Therefore, you must set a good example when it comes to developing a healthy lifestyle. They have to see that you eat well, work out and take care of your mental health, too. Otherwise, they won’t see the benefits and will have little motivation to develop healthy habits of their own. Change begins with you, so take the first step and become a better role model today. With your help, your kids will develop healthy habits to last a lifetime.

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About The Author

Ava Roman (she/her) is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you’ll find herin a yoga class, advocating for body positivity, whipping up something delicious in the kitchen, or smashing the patriarchy.