Little ones love their independence. They feel empowered when a decision is theirs to make. So, give kids lots of opportunities to learn how to make healthy lifestyle choices. You can help, too. That’s because children look to their parents and mentors for direction. And it’s important to help set them up for success in many aspects of their health.
Teaching your children to make healthy choices doesn’t need to be complicated or daunting. Easy-to-manage, simple adjustments to your current routine are all you need to keep your kids on track. Working on healthy decision making as a family is also a great way to reinforce the principles of healthy living for children.
If you need ideas for introducing healthy living concepts to kids, try to focus on these five high-impact areas:
- Eating a fiber-rich diet
- Enjoying kid-friendly exercises
- Getting adequate sleep
- Keeping good mental health in mind
- Developing a safe, responsible relationship with electronic devices
Kids are like sponges. They soak up new information and learn quickly. Below, you’ll find ideas and tips to help you teach kids about making smart decisions for overall health. Before you know it, your kids will be empowered to choose healthy options on their own.
Find Ways To Help Your Kids Eat More Fiber
Kids need balanced meals and snacks to power their play and support their growth. Fiber-rich foods are the key to lasting energy for fueling days of fun. Adults already know the importance of fiber. Once you’ve reached adulthood, you’ve heard “eat more fiber” too many times to count. So, pass along your wisdom and show your kids why they need it, too.
It’s starts with a simple fact: without fiber, it’s a lot harder to properly digest the food you eat. A child’s body (like any adult’s) needs adequate fluids and fiber to support health digestion. When the digestive system runs low on fiber, constipation and discomfort could be on the horizon. And it’s hard to run around and play with stomach discomfort.
Supporting healthy digestion isn’t all. Fiber-packed foods keep kids satisfied after a meal. It promotes feelings of fullness and helps keep children from overeating. With fiber, your kids get consistent amounts of energy without making them crash from a sugar high. This helps kids play or learn longer with steady energy.
Help your kids see how much fiber they need each day. Daily recommended amounts of fiber are different for every age group. The simplest way to calculate the amount of daily fiber needed is age plus five grams. This means that a three-year-old needs eight grams of dietary fiber daily.
Reading the nutrition label for a favorite packaged food is probably the last thing on a child’s mind. But you can show them where to look to find how much fiber is in their meal or snack. Help children choose fiber-rich foods to help them meet their daily fiber needs.
Fiber is an important part of many yummy foods and snacks that kids already love. Berries and nuts are excellent sources of fiber. Apples, beans, oranges, pears, peas, and whole grains are all kid-friendly fiber foods. Eating foods with lots of fiber has an added bonus. Since fiber is found naturally in fruits and veggies, fiber-rich foods are loaded with vitamins and nutrients. So, take the chance to explain to your kids why fiber is important and show them how good it can taste.
You can even sneak extra fiber into the occasional baked good or treat. Do this by replacing white flour with whole wheat flour in recipes or adding more fruits and veggies into sauces and other dishes. Adjustments like these will go a long way to meeting your child’s fiber needs.
A great way to help ensure kids eat the fiber they need is to provide five age-appropriate servings of fruits and veggies daily. When kids are good at consuming their fruits and veggies and other whole fiber-rich foods daily, there’s no real need to count fiber grams.
Make Exercise Fun for Your Kids (and for You)
Kids are already experts at moving and grooving. They run, jump, climb, and play all day long—this makes regular exercise a natural next step for little ones to tackle.
Exercise that seems like play is a great way to encourage kids to be active. And it doesn’t require a trip to the gym for kids to get moving. They can head to the park or the playground instead.
The best kid-friendly exercises should include elements of flexibility, strength, and endurance.
Games of tag and foot races are good for teaching kids about agility and speed. Sports like soccer, basketball, and running help little ones focus on endurance. Yoga and tumbling reinforce flexibility.
Kids can flex their strength on the monkey bars or jungle gym. Jumping rope, riding on a teeter-totter, and pushing friends on the swing set are other fun strength-building activities.
But don’t let their eagerness to play keep them from exercising safely. Kids can get hurt while they play just like adults do. That’s why it’s important to teach children how to protect their little muscles and joints from injury.
Encourage your kids to warm up and stretch before a play session. This can take the form of a walk to the park, or a short yoga sequence. Also, avoid dehydration by keeping plenty of water on-hand. Check in frequently with children so they don’t ignore any signs of injury.
One of the best things you can do is let your kids see you exercise. Show them how important activity is to health. Making workouts a family affair will also help kids develop lasting interest in health and fitness. It even makes it easier to give kids the support they need to try new ways of moving. So, get out and play together and have fun exercising as a family.
Support Healthy Sleep Habits With Bedtime Routines
Children thrive with routines, which comes in handy when it’s time to get to sleep. That’s because a predictable bedtime routine can be a game changer for getting your little ones the sleep they need.
Studies have shown adequate sleep has several positive impacts for children and teens. Attention, memory, and behavior show up often. But many aspects of mental and physical health have been shown to improve when kids get enough sleep.
But what’s the right amount of sleep? Recommended amounts vary by age group. Here is a breakdown:
|Age (years)||Sleep time (hours/day)|
These recommendations can help you assess how your child is doing in the sleep department. Try to create a bedtime routine to help them meet their daily sleep needs.
For young children, make the hour before bed loving and calm. Taking a bath, turning down the lights, and reading a story or two helps children transition from playtime to bedtime. And don’t forget, consistency is key for successful bedtime routines.
Older children and teens benefit from regular bedtimes, too. Going to bed at a similar time each night helps ensure your teens log enough sleep. Teens should also turn off electronic devices 30-minutes-to-one-hour before bedtime. Blue light from phone, tablet, and TV screens make it harder for the brain to wind down for bed.
If dental care is not part of your bedtime routine, then add it today. Taking care of your teeth is critical to your overall health. And it’s easiest to remember to do it before bed and right after your kids wake up.
If you want your kids to follow a regular bedtime schedule, then you should also follow one. If children see you sticking to a normal bedtime, they will be more likely to follow. In this case, leading by example also helps you get the sleep you need to deal with your well-rested, energetic children.
Teach Kids How to Prioritize Their Mental Health
Everybody experiences emotional ups and downs—even kids. That’s why it’s important to help children build a foundation of good mental health to carry them through times of worry or fear.
Kids should understand they need to take care of their minds and bodies equally. Feelings of worry, anxiety, sadness, and fear are all part of growing up. So, let your kids know they can come to you if something is troubling them.
Emotional wellness encourages kids to feel positively about themselves and others. It will help kids have happier relationships. They’ll also feel excited and interested in new adventures. Being mentally healthy helps kids get enough sleep and succeed in the classroom, too.
It all starts with open lines of communication. So, talk to your kids about recognizing changes in their social and emotional wellbeing. Make sure they know they can trust you when they’re feeling low. Words of support and praise from a loved one could be just the thing they need to start feeling better.
Also, overall health is a big, interconnected puzzle. You can promote your child’s mental health by helping them make smart diet and exercise choices. Wholesome foods and regular exercise are two of the best ways to help maintain a healthy mind.
Model Safe, Responsible Use of Electronic Devices
Digital devices are everywhere, and kids have easy access to them. Your kids might even be better at using a smartphone or tablet than you are. What they need from you is instruction on how to use devices responsibly.
Families can ensure their kids are safe online by supervising cell-phone and tablet use and sharing passwords. Try to establish open communication when it comes to the Internet. Help your child understand what’s appropriate for them to read, listen to, and watch. Tell them to be cautious and never share personal information online.
And it’s just as important to manage how much time kids spend logged into the digital world. Make escaping from screens and computers a priority. These off-screen experiences foster active play and imaginative thinking. Implementing these habits will help your family avoid the pitfalls of a digital world—like reduced sleep quality, unhealthy weight, and poor social skills.
Teach kids how to respect the boundaries you set around digital devices by taking breaks from technology yourself. Show children how much you enjoy time away from your phone by engaging with them one-on-one.
Find fun offline activities to do together. They’ll love the solo attention and you’ll enjoy knowing your kids are developing a healthy relationship with electronic devices.
Start Now to Set Your Kids Up for Success
Making healthy choices is an important life skill that parents can teach their kids. Your example and guidance are enough to show them how to make their own good decisions. Lead your kids to a life of healthy living by teaching them how to make good choices for themselves today.
About the Author
Sydney Sprouse is a freelance science writer based out of Forest Grove, Oregon. She holds a bachelor of science in human biology from Utah State University, where she worked as an undergraduate researcher and writing fellow. Sydney is a lifelong student of science and makes it her goal to translate current scientific research as effectively as possible. She writes with particular interest in human biology, health, and nutrition.