How many of us lament the fact that we weren’t taught healthy habits when we were very young because it’s so hard to reset routines when we’re older?
Kids are naturally curious and they’re a bit like sponges, soaking up information from the world around them and mimicking what they see and hear. That’s why early childhood is the perfect time to introduce healthy habits and have conversations about the importance of doing things that will keep their bodies and minds healthy over the long term.
To this end, parents, caregivers and educators have a really important role to play in reinforcing healthy habits in children such as proper nutrition, sufficient physical activity and getting ample rest and sleep. These will aid children’s growth and development as well as set them on a path to a healthier lifestyle later in life.
Here are some of the ways you can promote a healthy lifestyle in young children:
Children need a balanced and varied diet to give them all the necessary nutrients for their busy daily lives. Adults are in charge of what foods go on the table, in the fridge or in the snack cupboard – so it really is up to you to provide healthy choices.
- Children mimic the behaviour of others around them, so be a good role model
- Don’t use lollies, sweet treats or salty snacks as rewards
- Don’t make children feel guilty about eating – rather acknowledge when they make healthy choices
- Talk about which foods and beverages are healthy and unhealthy and why. Discuss what impact they can have on a person’s body (eg too much sugar, salt, fat etc)
- Have healthy snacks readily available. This does take a bit of effort but the long-term benefits can be significant
- Always start the day with a healthy breakfast and don’t skip meals
- Eat at the table
- Encourage children to participate in the preparation of healthy meals eg washing the lettuce, picking grapes etc.
There are plenty of resources available which contain a wealth of information on the various food groups, age-appropriate portion sizes, which foods should be offered sparingly and how to encourage good nutritional habits.
There are many different reasons why kids need to do regular physical activities.
Over and above the benefits for the healthy development of a child’s body, physical activities also help with the development of their fine and motor co-ordination skills, assist with social, cognitive and emotional skills and help with the quality of their sleep.
- Talk about why regular exercise is important
- Encourage healthy habits such as walking or riding to school
- Enjoy family fun doing physical activities together, eg taking the dog for a walk, throwing a ball, riding bikes, playing hide and seek etc.
- Limit screen time
- Again, be a good role model for your children. They need to see you enjoying exercising – as well as hear you talk about how much you enjoyed doing it too!
We often hear about the benefits of mindfulness in an adult context – but it can be just as important for kids too.
Mindfulness can help children to manage challenging situations better and can help them deal with stresses, anxieties and difficulties that they may be feeling or encountering. Teaching children mindfulness can also help them with learning, decision-making, self-confidence and self-esteem.
An increasing number of forward-thinking childcare centres now offer mindfulness activities such as yoga, meditation and special breathing techniques to help little people calm their minds and bodies, relax, reset and re-focus.
Healthy habits are important to enable children to grow up both happy and healthy – plus they help prevent future health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
If healthy habits are important to your family, it is really beneficial to find a childcare centre or early school which shares, supports and reinforces your sentiments. When the messages at home and school are consistent, it’s far more likely that a child will continue to follow a healthy way of life – for life.
Find out more about Treasured Tots on their website.