All moms want their children to be healthy, no matter if they are newborns or adults. And teaching children healthy habits early on is one thing moms can do to ensure that they stay always healthy.
One thing I would like to point out is, when we think of the word “health”, taking care of the body is what comes to our mind.
But as we are now starting to become aware (thanks to the internet and social media), mental health is equally important. In fact, symptoms of mental diseases can also manifest in our body as tiredness, mood swings, dizziness, nausea, etc.
The mind and body have strong interconnection. Therefore, let’s try to place importance on the mental health of children as well. Because both, body and mind, should work hand in hand to make sure that we lead a healthy life.
So, let’s dive in and see some of the best healthy habits that parents can teach kids.
1. MAKE SURE THEY EAT RAINBOW FOODS
Doctors and dietitians recommend that we “eat the rainbow”. It means, we should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure that we get almost all the vitamins and minerals we need.
Usually, we fall into the comfort of repeating our family recipes. There is nothing wrong with that. But make sure you add variety to your food by adding seasonal fruits and veggies in their diet in a way that pleases kids, especially the picky eaters.
2. CUT DOWN ON JUNK FOOD
Teach them the phrase, “You are what you eat”.
Healthy eating habits should be taught right from childhood. And they should be taught the difference between healthy and junk food.
It is hard to stop a child from wanting junk foods, but you need not give in every time they throw tantrums for ice creams, candies, or packaged fried foods in the grocery store.
They are usually attracted by the color of the packaging and all the freebies offered to lure people into buying. When they are big enough to read, teach them to read the labels and explain the ill-effects of the ingredients.
Slowly, they will learn to make the right food choices.
Also, try to make eating healthy food interesting by trying new healthy recipes. Healthy food can be delicious if you prepare it accordingly.
And also, you can substitute any unhealthy food ingredient with healthier alternatives and give your own spin to the recipe. If you are not into experimenting, you can make use of the tons of recipes available online.
To encourage healthy eating in kids, I often try to involve them in cooking. Kids will show more interest in trying new foods if they are involved in cooking. Also, keep telling them about how healthy foods are making them stronger and sharper each day. This helps them to be motivated about healthy eating.
3. ENCOURAGE ACTIVE LIFESTYLE
Too much screen time can lead to a sedentary lifestyle in kids. Getting outdoors every day even if it’s in your backyard has lots of benefits.
Outdoor play helps in
- Encouraging their creativity
- Improving social skills
- Developing their sense of independence
- Getting vitamin D which is beneficial in improving mood, focus, and immunity
- Preventing obesity
You can also introduce them to a variety of sports activities and let them be active in the ones they are interested in.
Making chores a part of kids’ life is also an excellent way to keep them active. It prevents them from becoming entitled couch potatoes who expect everything to be handed over to them. It also helps to develop a sense of responsibility in kids.
4. TEACH GOOD SLEEPING HABITS
Getting enough sleep is important for kids and adults alike. Proper sleep is required to function at your best.
Sleep is especially important for kids because poor sleep causes a decrease in the release of growth hormone in kids. It also decreases immunity, causes forgetfulness, lack of concentration and focus in studies, anxiety, depression, etc.
So make sure kids get proper sleep during the weekdays and weekends as well.
Going to sleep late during the weekends can ruin their sleep schedule causing “sleep debt”. So it’s always healthier to go to sleep and wake up at the same time even on the weekends.
I try to put my kids to sleep almost at the same time every night. And people tell me “But it’s not a school night!!!”. I don’t get why we can’t sleep early if it’s not a school night.
Don’t the people who don’t go to school sleep on time?
All I know is my kids wake up early when they go to bed on time (which is a good habit) and are active and energetic from the next second onwards. They don’t feel groggy because they got a good night’s sleep. And as a mother, it’s easier for me too because I don’t have to deal with the behavior issues that come with crankiness.
And not to mention I don’t have to deal with their sleep debt which gets carried over to the weekdays. I change this schedule only when we have guests at home. Then they get to enjoy their playtime with cousins and friends.
Am I venting? Maybe, a little. Sorry, I needed to put it out there 🙂 Onto the next point.
5. TEACH PERSONAL HYGIENE
Teaching personal hygiene is an important aspect of raising healthy kids who are independent enough to take care of themselves.
Healthy personal hygiene habits include:
- Brushing and flossing
- Washing hands before and after eating food and after outdoor play
- Daily showers
- Washing hands with soap after going to the toilet
- Covering mouth while sneezing or coughing
6. KEEPING HOME AND SURROUNDINGS CLEAN
Children can do their part in keeping their living space clean and tidy.
Encourage kids to always keep their room clean by putting their belongings in their place after use, making bed daily, putting litter in the waste bin, cleaning bathroom etc.
To get these tasks done and make it a habit for kids, assign these as part of their daily chores. You can help them to do these as a daily routine by making a chore checklist and giving instructions on how and when to do them.
The earlier you start with these habits, the better.
7. THERE ARE NO BAD EMOTIONS
If you want to raise kids who are emotionally healthy, teach them to embrace all kinds of emotions that they feel.
One of the reasons I love positive parenting is the “embracing kids as humans” part. So often we don’t let kids express their emotions when we ourselves have them.
Kids are not allowed to cry because “crying is bad”. They are not allowed to get angry because it is disrespectful. Sure there are acceptable and unacceptable ways of expressing emotions.
And it’s a parent’s duty to teach emotional regulation to kids.
For example, anger can be released in healthy ways like journaling, taking deep breaths, walking away from the situation, etc.
Crying should be met with empathy. Do not discount their feelings by saying “Don’t cry for such silly things”, or “Only bad girls cry”, or “Boys don’t cry”, etc.
Instead, you can teach them that, “Crying is healthy when you feel sad”, or “Getting angry is okay, but always yelling at others is not”, etc.
When it comes to emotions, teach them healthy ways to express it and not be ashamed of having any emotions. They have a right to their feelings – we all do.
8. TEACH GRATITUDE
Why is gratitude a healthy habit?
I always strive to teach gratitude to kids because after I started practicing gratitude deliberately in my adulthood, I began to benefit from it immensely.
Gratitude is important because of the way the human mind works. We always strive for more, and even though it helps us to grow, we can be forgetful of the blessings we already have.
Lack of gratitude for what we already have leads to unhappiness, stress, depression, anxiety, and other physical diseases as well.
Gratitude also helps to reduce materialism and jealousy. It is hard as a parent to satisfy children by keeping up with their constant demands to buy new stuff that their friends have. Therefore, gratitude is a must-have habit for kids (and of course for adults too).
Gratitude also helps to develop a positive mindset and teach kids to be resilient in hard times.
9. BOREDOM IS GOOD
The kids today don’t have time to breathe because their daily schedule is filled out with school, sports, tuition, and other extracurricular activities.
They don’t have time to get bored and even if they complain of boredom parents feel the need to entertain them.
Parents don’t need to be the entertainers because ultimately the kid should learn to entertain himself.
Studies show that boredom sparks creativity. When we are bored, our minds start to think of possible activities that could entertain us and sometimes new ideas enter our minds randomly.
When my daughters complain of boredom, most of the time I just acknowledge their feelings and not do anything about it. And the next minute they can be seen being engaged in writing a story or creating a new play together.
I once made my daughter make a list of activities that she would like to do when she is bored. Now when she complains of boredom, I make her look through the list to help her entertain herself.
Being bored also helps them to think and develop their own perspectives on life, which in turn helps them in character formation.
Hence downtime is not only normal but essential.
10. MAKE SURE THEY STAY HYDRATED
Everyone knows the importance of drinking water. Drinking enough water helps kids to stay energetic, prevent constipation and urinary infection, improve digestion, etc.
Encourage kids to drink more water by creating a water tracker and let them fill it every day.
Also, make it a habit to always have water on hand in bottles and encourage them to take the bottles everywhere they go.
11. ENCOURAGE WALKING
Encourage walking short distances rather than using a vehicle. It helps to promote physical activity and improve the child’s fitness levels.
In Japan, kids as young as 6 or 7 can be seen riding the subway alone and walk to school. Walking is an integral part of their culture and needless to say, it helps in keeping their fitness levels high.
Parents often have fears around letting children walk alone to school, even if the school is within walking distance. If you cannot do that, you can encourage kids to walk with you when you go to nearby places like a grocery store or a park.
I found this interesting article online about how kids benefit physically and mentally by walking to school.
12. RAISE A READER
Reading makes your child smarter. Reading helps them to improve their vocabulary and develop language skills.
It opens them to new perspectives and takes them to new places. It helps to improve their creativity and it is also beneficial in their overall well-being.
To help children form a reading habit, the younger you start, the better. Buy them age-appropriate books and read to them. For young kids, reading stories is also a good opportunity to build connection.
More articles on parenting:
- 12 qualities of a good parent
- How I manage it all as a work-at-home mom
- 11 effective tips to stop sibling rivalry
What more healthy habits would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!
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