This week is Every Kid Healthy Week, a nationwide initiative designed to raise awareness about the importance of childhood health. After all, healthy children are more likely to grow into healthy adults! As parents you play an important role in encouraging your children to adopt healthy habits that, longterm, will have a huge impact in their overall health and wellness. Sometimes, though, getting your child to be healthy is easier said than done!
Here at ODC we want your kids to thrive well into adulthood, and we understand that this starts by implementing healthy lifestyle habits at a young age. Whether you’re just starting to have the conversation about health with your children or are trying to instill healthy habits at a very young age, here are a few tips for how to help encourage healthy lifestyles for your children.
Tip #1: Make Healthy Eating Fun
Diet is a crucial component in health, and it’s often one of the areas where parents struggle the most when it comes to their kids! In many cases the foods your children are exposed to at a young age determine their preferences and palate later in life, which is why many parents feel so much pressure surrounding what they feed their kids. Fighting the healthy food battle is difficult, especially when you have a picky little one. It can be so easy to get caught between giving up, overindulging and letting your kids eat whatever they want or, on the flip side, being too restrictive and taking the joy out of food completely. It’s all about finding the balance!
When it comes to nutrition and diet, try to find ways to make healthy eating fun for your kids! Whether that means disguising celery as an “ant log”, swapping in zoodles for noodles at dinnertime, or even using a point system to reward healthy food choices, there are lots of ways you can encourage your child to eat more healthy foods without completely restricting sugar. Experiment with different recipes, find healthy foods that they do enjoy eating, and be sure to encourage that consumption while remembering that it’s ok to have a treat every once in a while too!
Tip #2: Talk. About. Everything.
Kids are, by nature, incredibly curious. While it can be frustrating to constantly hear “why” being asked when it comes to the healthy habits you’re trying to instill, it’s important to remember that Q&A is the primary way that children learn. It’s normal for them to ask questions, and this is a great opportunity for you to teach them the why behind the changes that you’re making! If they ask why they need to eat vegetables, take that opportunity and talk to your kids about why fruits and vegetables are so essential to their health. Even if they don’t quite understand the concept yet, you’re helping them build the foundation for a healthy future.
By engaging with our child’s questions, answering them, and asking them to make connections in their daily lives, we help them develop a greater understanding of the world around them. This has implications in every area of life, including health and wellness.
Tip #3: Get Them Excited About Active Play
From a young age, children love to play. As they get older, however, they discover more effortless ways to entertain themselves without requiring as much motion and movement. What started as foursquare in the driveway with the neighborhood kids may morph into evenings playing on Xbox live together, and although both activities can be beneficial it’s important to find ways to encourage your kids to remain active as they continue to grow.
As parents, we know that staying active is a critical component in staying healthy – even if we aren’t always good at keeping up with it ourselves. Encourage your children to get outdoors as much as possible, and try to lead by example when it comes to being active! Go for family walks, let out some steam at the park, or commit to a weekly game of wiffle ball in the backyard – whatever it takes to get the whole family outside and incorporating regular exercise into their normal routines.
Tip #4: Start Discussions About Mental Health Early
When we think about how to help our kids be healthier it’s normal to immediately focus on diet and exercise, but so often we forget that our childrens’ mental health is just as important as their physical health! Our culture has made leaps and bounds on the frontline of mental health in the past 25 years alone, and this greater understanding has helped us navigate the waters of sensory issues, attention deficit, autism, and even anxiety with more care and gentle approaches.
Here at Optimum Direct Care, we want your children to be surrounded by caretakers that can help them identify their emotions and recognize their own personal struggles. If your children are able to better understand themselves, the emotions or anxieties that they’re experiencing, and have learned healthy ways to cope with or process those feelings, they’ll be better equipped for their futures!
Tip #5: Make Regular Health Checks The Norm
One of the best things you can do for your children in their health and wellness journey is to normalize going to the doctor. Start taking them for regular health checks at a young age, and be sure to show them that those experiences can and should be positive! Lots of kids are afraid of going to the doctor, and when they only visit during times of illness or duress it reinforces that perception that the doctor’s office is a “bad place”.
Try to remember that children are constantly watching the things we do and learning by example, so by modeling the lives we lead we are setting our kids up for a successful, healthy life! This is why we recommend that you and your child visit the doctor together. Get your teeth cleaned together, see the eye doctor together, come in for regular checkups with Dr. Muzzi together, and discuss the importance of these visits often. It will go a long way towards encouraging your child to stay on top of their health and seek help if/when an issue arises later down the line!Encouraging your kids to be healthy isn’t always easy, but it’s one of the most important things you can do for them in the long run! As a family medicine practice, we’re always here to help if you’re struggling with your children’s health or need guidance about how to encourage healthy lifestyle changes for your family. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or schedule an appointment with Dr. Muzzi to discuss your concerns!