“Father knows best.” “Listen to your mother.” There’s a reason why these phrases have become clichés, and that’s because kids just don’t know how to care for themselves. Left on their own, kids will just eat candy, watch TV, and play video games all day. That’s why you should know how to help your little ones become healthy.
Of course, health is crucial for children in their formative years. It’s hard to smile and laugh when you’re aching. It’s hard to be well adjusted when you don’t have a lot of energy. How can your kids get along and mingle with other kids, or keep up with their studies, when they’re in bad shape? If you want to set them up for a good, healthy life, you’ve got to introduce good habits early. Here’s a rough guide in helping your kids have a healthy lifestyle.
How many times have your kids spoiled their appetites by eating too much ice cream? Probably too many to count. A lot of kids do this because, as far as they know, there’s no downside in eating sugary foods in unhealthy amounts. Sure, you can try to just tell them not to eat sugar- and fat-laden food, but that’ll just probably make them want to eat more.
The real solution to this problem is to teach them about the risks. Simple sugars from candy can lead to a sugar rush, which leads to a plunge in blood sugar levels that leaves kids irritable, cranky, and less able to concentrate. Eating too much fat can lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which can lead to diabetes and heart problems; heart problems can also result from too much salty food. Explaining the possible consequences of eating too much junk food will encourage kids to make healthy decisions on their own.
After teaching your kids about the types of food that they should avoid, you should help them find the right diet. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a good place to start. But it’s only a start—a healthy diet requires a wide range of nutrients, which you can’t find in any single food item.
The key is to have a balanced diet that has proteins for growth, which they can get from beans, meat, eggs, and fish; carbohydrates for healthy and long-lasting energy, provided by starchy food like potatoes, bread, and pasta; calcium and healthy fats, which come from dairy products; and vitamins and minerals for enhanced immunity and bodily functions, which they can get from fruits and vegetables. A good rule of thumb is to give them five portions of fruit a day for an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals.
Eating the right food is important for a healthy body, but so is exercise. Think of it as a “use it or lose it” benefit. The more people move their body, the stronger it becomes, but they would lose that strength if they just sit all day. The same applies to your kids.
A lot of young ones spend practically all their free time glued to screens and monitors. All that time spent indoors means they’re not burning the calories they’re consuming. They’re not playing with others, so they’re not developing a sense of teamwork. They’re missing out on all the other benefits of active play. Don’t let your children skip this crucial phase, and find active play activities for them to do.
If there’s one thing kids hate, it’s boredom. That’s why play should involve healthy activities that engage them mentally and physically. There are plenty of activities that are complicated enough to provide them with hours of entertainment and opportunities for growth. However, they’ll only stick to the activity that they find most interesting.
They might enjoy the camaraderie provided by team sports like soccer or basketball, or they might prefer the freedom of expression that comes from learning how to dance. If you live someplace that’s ideal for jogging or fun runs, that’s another option; it would be even better to get the whole family to join.
It’s easier to get children to stick to routines that are fun, and it’s easier to make activities fun when a group of people join in, whether they’re kids or kids at heart.
Sleep is one aspect of kids’ health that parents take for granted. Play and diet get a lot of attention, but there are also well-documented physical, emotional, and mental benefits of sleep for kids. Unfortunately, children generally have trouble falling asleep for a variety of reasons, ranging from overly active imaginations to the desire to explore. So if you want your young ones to get the proper amount of shuteye, you need a solid pre-bedtime routine.
One good example is the 4 B’s: bath, brushing teeth, books, and bed. You can add other elements like lullabies or talking about their plans for the next day. Consistency is crucial; a structured bedtime schedule will go a long way toward helping children stick to a routine. Over time, it can get to a point where your kids will even ask to start the routine when they’re tired. Ideally, you want to start priming them for sleep 30 minutes to one hour before their bedtime.
Getting your children to sleep is one thing; keeping them asleep is another. Depending on their age, children need 10 to 13 hours of sleep each day. A less-than-ideal sleep setup will make them more likely to wake up in the middle of the night, taking away valuable rest time. To make it easier for them, you have to make sure the conditions in their bedroom are just right.
Make sure the room they’re sleeping in is cool and not stuffy; if they tend to toss and turn, you’ll need to make sure they have enough room on their bed. The bed should also be made of a sufficiently firm material like memory foam that is neither too hard nor too soft. Use covers and sheets that have the right thickness, and consider getting stuffed toys or a night-light to reassure your kids in case they get scared. But don’t use TV or electronic devices to calm them down; these can actually make them excited and less likely to go back to sleep.
Raising children who follow a healthy lifestyle is important, but it sure isn’t easy. It’s about helping them stay away from extremes—eating too much, playing too hard, sleeping too little, and so on—which is difficult for children to do on their own. To help them find the middle ground, you’ve got to teach them the right values and behavior. Keeping your kids fit isn’t just about teaching them one good eating habit or activity. They need multiple routines for a healthy lifestyle to take root.