Early childhood and adolescence can be both a wonderful and complicated time for our children. Between the stresses of not finishing up the school year in a traditional fashion to the ever-changing landscape of their world amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, healthy physical and mental habits can fall to the wayside. However, practicing healthy habits as a family is a fantastic way to bond during summer vacation as well as keep up with vital routines to a young person’s life. Here are a few tips and tricks to starting and maintaining healthy habits with your kids.
Take Habits on Together & Be a Role Model
Before you decide which habits are most important to instill in your young children, think about how you can help keep these habits alive. Many studies show the importance of sharing habits with your families from the start. If your children watch you as a parent take on healthy habits like eating balanced meals or flossing daily, they’ll be far more likely to join in. Many times the habits your children aren’t able to keep up with are the ones you struggle with as well! So, do yourself a favor and practice what you preach.
1. Create Early Balanced Food Habits
It’s not unreasonable to assume that your child is more likely to choose snacks and meals that they feel familiar with. That’s why it’s a good idea to start building those healthy food habits as soon as you possibly can. If we’re looking at this extra time at home in a positive light, more time spent at home is more time you can help your child build healthy habits with food and their food choices. Have a picky eater or a child that isn’t keen on eating green? You’re not alone. Make sure that as a parent, you’re taking the time to show your child healthy food while cooking and grocery shopping together. Keep healthy, well-balanced snacks available in your home, and instill eating at a regular time each day. Things you should avoid altogether or cease doing in your home? Don’t reward your child with their favorite snack for good behavior, and don’t reward make unhealthy food a reward during mealtime. Sure, we all know that french fries are a delicious albeit unhealthy food choice, but promoting those unhealthy choices over healthy ones as a reward can promote poor eating habits early on in life.
2. Promote Positive Food Habits
Eating and snacking is often a habit that is created during stressful times, or during times of general relaxation at home. Although it’s completely normal for children and parents to want to snack at home, make sure to make snack time healthy and promote healthy habits related to how and when food should be eaten. Make healthy snacks, even sugary fruits, more readily available than something like chips or candy. This way, no matter if your child is old enough to grab snacks on their own, they reach for something delicious and nutritious like baby carrots and not a Baby Ruth candy bar.
3. Brush and Floss Together as a Team
If your children are anything like mine, brushing teeth before bedtime can sometimes feel like entering a battle in the bathroom. My kids are more inclined to hop into bed, ready for me to read their favorite book, then take 10 minutes every night to brush and floss. However, you can make this habit easier by participating in brushing and flossing together as a “team”. Make sure that you don’t give in to those nights when your kids are eager to get the rest of their nighttime routine started. Instead, make dental hygiene an essential part of their nightly routine. In fact, make sure that this first step is indeed necessary to take together before you move onto the fun night time chapter or family movie time.
4. Start a Family Garden
At a young age, I knew I wanted to teach my children the importance of being responsible over a living creature. I wanted to show my children that taking care of others can be as important as taking care of themselves. Although I’d already instilled the habit of cleaning up after themselves and taking care of their toys, books, and personal items, as they moved into their adolescence stage, I wanted to encourage an adaption of the habit. I knew my children weren’t ready to care for living animals on their own, as they were too young to even appreciate a small fish in a tank, however, I thought this was the perfect time to bond together in our family garden. Not only was tending to our small outdoor garden of easy to keep herbs a great way to teach my children the importance of sustainability by growing one’s own food, but it was a chance to show my children the importance of taking care of something living. Daily and weekly waterings became are now a key part of our family’s habitual routine. My children love to watch their efforts at work in their meals and in the garden box.
5. The Habits of Healthy Finances
Your toddler or young child may not be able to appreciate the value of the dollar and financial security right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start building healthy financial habits now to benefit them in the future. If you’re part of a banking system that lets you set up savings projects to keep track of your finances and goals, you’re already on the right track to building that healthy habit for yourself. How can you share this habit with your kids? Simplify the process for your child. Whether your child receives a weekly allowance, or simply begs you to buy a new toy every other month, it’s time to teach your child about the importance of being financially responsible, independent, and frugal. Sure, they may not understand the importance of putting money into the stock market, but helping your child save up their allowance for purchases that are meaningful to them will help them understand how saving and keeping track of spending can help them understand the gravity and power of the dollar. Respectfully keep good spending habits together and your children will develop with a healthy outlook on financial stability.