I was inspired to create this post after my six-year-old old cousin stayed with me for the week. He is a sweet, inquisitive, loving ball of energy. I thoroughly enjoyed having him visit and spending time with him. Like any young kid, though, he had his moments. Creating healthy habits with kids reduces these “moments” and promotes health and growth. Other benefits include enhanced behavior, attention, social skills, and learning. Ultimately, healthy kids are happy kids!
- Be Active
It’s no secret; active kids are healthier, happier, and more intelligent individuals. Kids who engage in play and exercise are also much more likely to do the same as adults. There is also a direct connection between movement and cognitive function. Kids should aim to be active for at least 90 minutes a day.
- Limit Screen Use
Children’s screen time is a monstrous challenge for parents today. There are apparent adverse side effects of looking at a screen for long periods, but it’s more so what kids miss out on while being on a screen. Screen time is replacing playtime and boredom time. Both are equally crucial for a kid’s health, development, and imagination. Set a screen curfew and no screen zones, such as the bedrooms and kitchen table, to help limit the number of hours kids are on their devices.
- Prioritize Sleep
Studies have shown that kids who regularly get adequate sleep have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Schedules can be challenging to stick with, but bedtime for kids should be constant and consistent, seven days a week. To help your child wind down, stick with a bedtime routine that starts an hour or so before the desired bedtime. Kids aged 6-12 should be shooting for at least 10 hours of sleep per night.
Reading is to the brain what exercise is to the body. Reading is beneficial for children’s mental stimulation, knowledge, and vocabulary expansion. It also can help build a child’s self-esteem and ability to communicate better. A child is 90% likely to remain a poor reader at the end of the fourth grade if the child is a poor reader at the end of first grade. Reading is a perfect addition to the bedtime routine for kids as a beginner reader should attempt to get in at least 20 minutes of reading a day.
- Eat lots of Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and nutrients for growing bodies. They also make great options for healthy and tasty snacks. Strive for a serving or two of fruits and veggies at each meal. Aim to eat many colored fruits and vegetables as the various colors render different nutrients.
- Limit highly Processed Foods and Drinks
Many foods and drinks advertised to kids are highly processed. Highly processed foods typically contain a lot of sugar, unhealthy fats, and other toxic ingredients. These foods are a significant reason why 1 in 5 children ages 6-11 years old are obese and hyperactive. If possible, stick to whole foods or go with the healthier alternatives to the popular packaged foods.
- Drink Water, Not Soda
Being well hydrated improves mood, memory, and attention in children. Sugary drinks, like sodas, do the opposite. Make hydration fun for children by letting them buy a water jug, drinking out of silly reusable straws, or diffusing the water with fruit to add flavor to promote more water drinking. Your kid may need more water during the day, depending on the weather and how active they are.
- Practice Good Oral Hygiene
Helping children develop healthy habits to care for teeth while they are young is essential. These habits can set the stage for good oral health care throughout their entire life. They can avoid many of the problems that result from poor oral health, including gum disease, cavities, and tooth decay. Oral hygiene is another habit of adding to your child’s bedtime routine.
- Take Daily Walks
Going on walks provides your child (and the parent) an opportunity to get outside and move. Walking also is an excellent opportunity for your child to talk and share what is on their mind. If reasonable, walk to the park, the store, or just around the neighborhood. The benefits are well worth it.
- Practice Having a Growth Mindset
Kids are naturally curious and want to try new things. They naturally also give up on tasks that are challenging. Encouraging them to stick with it and view failure as a stepping stone to success can pay future dividends. As long as you help them see they are lovable, unique, and capable, they will be well off no matter what challenges they encounter.
To MAS Health,
Michael and Wywy