I have watched my kids fall – and fall hard too many times to count. I rarely flinch when I see it happen. Fortunately, there’s only been a few times that someone has broken a bone or gotten really hurt. But watching my kids be active and fall off horses, fall on hard ice, or fall running across a field is just part of it.
Pushing them to hike farther and harder, to not fear pain, and to press forward even when it’s hard has taught them that they are tough and given them a real sense that they can do anything. We can’t protect our kids from every bump and scrape, especially if we want them to have a healthy lifestyle. We have to teach them the right mindset and habits now that will take with them into a healthy adulthood.
7 Ways to Teach Your Kids Healthy Habits
Here are seven things you can do now to encourage your kids to choose a healthy lifestyle.
#1 Make meal time learning time. Encourage your kids to know what’s on their plate. Get them tell you which food is a protein and which is a carb. Talk to them about how you need carbs for energy and proteins to build muscle. Teach them about how their food provides the fuel their body needs. Share with them what vitamins are found in different fruits and vegetables and what vegetables protect against which disease.
#2 Practice what you preach. Kids learn by watching you. You can’t ask them to eat all their veggies if you don’t. And you can’t get them to exercise if you never get any exercise yourself. Choose healthy habits together. I take my girls out on hikes most weeks and we ride horses together. We get on the floor and exercise – together. I talk about my healthy eating choices and encourage them not too eat too much sugar or fattening foods.
#3 Be active as a family. The most important exercise is the kind you actually do. If you don’t enjoy something, it’s unlikely that you’ll do it, and you definitely won’t stick with it. Find an exercise you enjoy and encourage your kids to do the same. Get active as a family. Have a goal to move more and do something active every day. Go for a hike, swim or bike ride. Take an exercise class. When your kids start to learn that exercise can be fun, they’ll be more excited to do it.
All of my kids are involved in some type of sport that keeps them active. And we increase our weekly activity by hiking, taking long walks, exercising on the floor, etc. In the summer we try to spend several days a week at the pool swimming. But if you really love swimming try joining the YMCA or other indoor aquatic center in your town.
#4 Put yourself first. Use a whiteboard to keep track of your family activities and hang it somewhere everyone can see it. Make sure your activities are on there too. If your kids see: “Mom is going for a run from 9am to 10am” they know that’s not a good time to bother you. Teach them to respect your time. When they see that you are prioritizing your health, they will learn to do the same. Sacrificing our own needs for the sake of our kids will only teach them that we don’t value ourselves. When you care for yourself first, you’re better able to take care of your kids — mentally and physically. I used to take morning walks alone but now that my girls are older, we walk together – usually in the afternoon or evening.
#5 Get your kids involved in sports. Let your kids pick a sport they’d like to try. Experiment with a few if necessary until they find one they like. If they don’t enjoy team sports, look into individual sports like ice skating, swimming, golf, tennis, or karate. Sports teach kids to believe in their abilities and helps them build confidence what their bodies can do.
#6 Don’t skip breakfast. Building a routine of regular mealtimes during childhood will make it more likely that your kids will continue this habit when they’re older. Teach them that a healthy breakfast is a great way to get their day started. Not only will it kick start their brain and energy, it will help keep them strong and it keeps chronic diseases at bay. And if that’s not enough, Harvard Medical School found that skipping breakfast makes you four times more likely to be obese.
#7 Don’t be a couch potato. Get kids – and yourself – off the couch and out the door. It’s terrible how glued to electronics families are today which means people are more sedentary than ever. The Mayo Clinic discovered that kids who watch more than an hour or two of screen time every day are at greater risk for a number of health problems including low performance at school, emotional and social problems, irregular sleep and attention disorders. So get your kids up and moving!
My teens do not have cell phones and I don’t allow them to be on their devices for hours on end. They need to be doing something to stimulate their minds – like reading good books – or moving whether it be outdoors or on the living room floor. Since my kids are all involved either in ice skating which requires hours upon hours of weekly practice, gymnastics, horses, or karate, we don’t have much time to be sitting around looking at a screen. Being involved in sports also provides motivation for them to be physically fit and to eat healthy so they are at the top of their game each week. Having kids in sports helps motivate me too! Be creative and find ways to get your kids involved in activities that will keep them moving.