In my day we went outside and didn’t come in until the street lights came on. We rode bikes, made forts in the woods and played hide and seek. In today’s world children want to get online, play on a tablet or text their friends while listening to their favorite playlist. That is not to even mention all of the unhealthy food options and environmental influences out there today.
It is a fact, no matter what you put into raising your child their environment will play a major role in their habits be that good or bad.
As a parent, knowing what to do can sometimes be very challenging. Every child’s journey will be different as is every family. Here are a few universal tips to help you along the way.
- At least one meal of the day should involve the entire family at the table. Make no mistakes all meals should be eaten at the table, but making it a family affair at least once a day is essential. Old timers will tell you, a lot happens at the family table. Keep it simple, and lead by example. Make conversation, ask about their day and really, really listen. What they are telling you is as important to them as that big promotion looming in the back of your mind at work.
- Get active. Family time is important, and playing healthy games can really help your children reach that 60 minutes of required activity a day. Make it age appropriate rather it is a game of hopscotch, chase, basketball or tickle monster. You can take a walk, a run or kick a soccer ball. Whatever you and your child can do that is active not only is great for their health, it works wonders for making amazing memories and bonding.
- Be your child’s biggest cheerleader and strongest motivator. There is no rules for motivating your child. This has to be done from your own unique approach. When it comes to supporting your child’s physical activity and active pursuits you have to make it known to them how much you encourage and support them. One thing that hasn’t changed about children is that they want to make mom and dad proud of them. Other than encouraging sports, you can go on family outings, swim or take a bike ride. Make sure they are staying hydrated and are dressed for whatever physical activities they or your family have decided to pursue.
- Even at an early age screen time can become too much too fast. TV, smartphones the family computer or their tablet can take up a lot of their time. Putting limits on screen time and replacing it with active time is essential to their health and social development. Take the computer out of your child’s room and place it in a common area. This is not only a health but a safety rule. Specialists say kids should not be in front of a TV for more than 2 hours a day. Remember, computer and other LED monitors are not good for your child’s eyes for prolonged periods of time.
- Do not take the easy way out. Fast food is not good for anyone especially a growing child. Plan out healthy meals and snacks. Take junk foods out of the home or keep them at a minimum. You can make healthy meals in 30 minutes or less on weeknights and some moms even make their meals and freeze them on the weekends to get them through the week ahead. Whatever works for keeping your family eating healthy and eating together is what you should do.
- Don’t make nutrition feel like a punishment. Get your children involved in planning for healthier meals. You are not only telling them that their opinion matters but you are building tools that they will someday use in their own family. Plant your own garden, go pick berries or do a fun forest arrangement with the broccoli! Don’t shy away from your creativity.
- Take it slow. You cannot take a family who has been able to do and eat what they want and toss it overnight. Replace bad foods with good ones slowly. Start whittling down screen times and ease in family activities that get you together and moving. However, there is no way to ease in eating dinner as a family, and this one is worth forcing. Eventually they will all adjust.
It is vital that you be a role model. Make sure that you approach this with a positive attitude. You have to stay physical and eat healthy as well. Our children watch us, and they will mimic us eventually. A healthy lifestyle has to be a priority. It is never too late to make a commitment and get your family involved. While they may not be the most willing little troopers at first, working it all into your daily lives will be rewarding in the end. Eventually they will follow your lead, and when they are older they will thank you for it.
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