Teaching your children healthy habits can help set them up for a lifetime of healthy living. It’s essential to do this as early as possible. Kids learn fast.
“Children look up to their parents and pick up many of their habits, good and bad. It’s important for parents to lead by example and make healthy choices,” says Jessica Yu, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Clinic Mission Valley.
Here are some tips to help your children develop healthy habits to last a lifetime.
One of the most important healthy habits to teach your kids is maintaining a positive attitude. Staying positive can have a significant impact on their mental and physical health.
“Helping them build a positive attitude will greatly contribute to their well-being throughout their lives and help them build resilience,” Dr. Yu says.
Encourage your children at an early age to face challenges with optimism and resilience, rather than with pessimism and discouragement. Explain that it is okay to have bad days and make mistakes. Teach them what is more important is to learn from these experiences and move forward.
Limiting screen time is good for your children’s health and wellbeing.
Children and teens are growing up in a digital world. They see screens at all hours of the day through many devices — computers, smartphones and television. However, excessive screen time can lead to health problems, such as obesity and poor eyesight.
Time on screen means less time outside, getting exercise and socializing. Parents play a vital role in how children balance their time between digital devices and physical activities.
Reading greatly contributes to the cognitive development of a child. By encouraging your kids to read, you are helping them improve their concentration, enhance their language skills, and stimulate their imagination.
“It’s never too early to start reading to your children,” Dr. Yu says. “Reading with babies and toddlers helps connections form in their young brains. These connections build language, literacy and social-emotional skills that are important in a young child’s development.”
Make reading a treat and not a chore by choosing books that your kids like. Make daily reading part of your child’s playtime and bedtime routines.
Getting your little ones used to eating vegetables can be a challenge. Stay positive if they don’t like something right away but keep trying. Getting them used to eating healthy foods is worth the wait.
“Vegetables are a powerhouse of nutrients, and their health benefits are immense,” Dr. Yu says.
Help your kids understand why vegetables are better choices compared to fast food or soft drinks. Serve a variety of vegetables during meals to give them options.
Making a game out of tasting new colorful veggies or fruits can make learning this healthy habit fun and engaging. Think red apples, purple grapes, green beans, orange carrots and yellow squash.
Teach your child that they need energy to start their day and that is what breakfast provides. Make sure their first meal of the day is a healthy one by serving a variety of fruits and vegetables.
“You can say it is the most important meal of the day and should not be missed,” Dr. Yu says.
Keep your kids moving while they are young. It will go a long way in keeping them healthy and become second nature to them as they get older. Regular exercise or physical activity can help prevent excess weight and childhood obesity.
Not every child loves sports but there are many things parents can do to keep their kids physically active.
Try to expose them to a range of age-appropriate activities. It could be a sport or walking the dog or playing hide and go seek.
“Every child is different, so there is bound to be something they will enjoy,” Dr. Yu says. “Stay active yourself and show your kids that exercise is not a chore. Show them it’s a fun way to stay healthy.”
Most kids should get at least an hour of physical activity each day. Make time for this by limiting screen time.
As they get older, teach your children how to read food labels and understand the nutritional content of their food.
Read the label on their favorite packaged snacks. Focus on a few important parts of the label, such as calories, saturated fats and trans fats and sugar content.
“Help them learn how to make informed decisions about what they eat. This will lead to healthier food choices in the long run,” Dr. Yu says.