Health behaviors and habits begin in childhood and often follow us into adulthood.
Small changes will provide children with daily opportunities to move their bodies, try a variety of healthy foods and manage stress can make a big difference over time.
Try one or more of these tips and together you can develop lifelong healthy habits.
Movement is an important part of each day. Children aged 3 to 5 years need physically active play throughout the day. Children aged 6 to 17 years need at least one hour of physical activity.
Playing together is a great way to encourage everyone to get active. Try taking a walk, playing games in the backyard, visiting a local park, or turning on some music for a dance party. These are all fun ways to make physical activity a routine highlight of your child’s day.
Some activity is better than no activity and every little bit counts.
Set limits around screen time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children aged 2 to 5 years have less than one hour of high-quality screen time each day.
For older children, we want to set consistent limits which allow for adequate sleep, activity, and family time.
Try interacting with children when they use screens. This can help them better understand what they see and introduce boundaries.
Healthy food swaps for the whole family
There are many ways to improve your family’s nutrition.
Think about your drinks, snacks, side dishes and cooking methods. For drinks, choose water or unflavored, low-fat milk in place of sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea, or fruit drinks.
For snacks, try nuts, seeds, or olives instead of chips or crackers.
For side dishes, add colorful vegetables or fruits. You can also swap whole grains like brown rice or whole-wheat pasta in place of white rice or pasta.
Finally, when cooking, take advantage of the microwave or oven to bake, steam, or roast foods instead of frying.
Create bedtime routines
Getting enough sleep improves academic performance, concentration in school, and is linked to maintaining a healthy weight. School-age children need 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night, and younger children need even more – 10 to 13 hours for preschoolers, 11 to 14 hours for toddlers, and 12 to 15 hours for infants.
Having consistent pre-bedtime routines can make it easier for everyone to fall asleep.
Encourage healthy stress management
Stress hormones can take a toll on our bodies, making us more vulnerable to illness, weight gain, and changing our behavior.
Finding positive ways to reduce or relieve stress can provide lifelong skills for stress management. Some ideas for practicing healthy stress relief with your child include having a daily movement session, getting creative with drawing or crafts, and simply allowing your child to express how they are feeling and reassuring them that their feelings are valid.
Stay on track with well-child checks
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children are falling behind on well checks.
In this difficult time, it is important to keep up with annual checkups. They are an important opportunity for health-care providers to track growth and development. These checkups are also a chance for you to ask questions and get connected with resources.
Healthy family habits like the ones listed above are shown to improve academics, mental health, raise confidence levels, and decrease the risk of disease. Doing them together offers a bonus of quality time that can strengthen family bonds.