We’ve never been more aware of healthy habits, like proper handwashing, as we are now in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Other healthy habits — like buckling up, brushing teeth, choosing healthy food, exercising, and more — are still just as important.
Yet, these aren’t always easy to teach — after all, parents have a whole lot on their plates! The trick is to make healthy habits a part of your child’s routine, so they become automatic.
Small steps every day eventually build up to routine actions. Just take one step forward at a time, using these tips.
Model Good Behavior
Just like everything in parenting, when you set a good example, your child can see how to do a desired behavior.
Not only that, remember that if you’re asking your child to do something you aren’t willing to do, they won’t buy in to your ask!
For example, if you want your child to buckle up, make sure you always buckle your seatbelt as soon as you get in the car.
Teach Healthy Habits
Before you can expect your child to manage healthy habits on their own, they need to know exactly what’s expected of them. Telling them to wash their hands, without first teaching the steps, may end with a child who only runs water on the tips of their fingers for a few seconds.
Stay by Their Side
As your child is learning how to develop healthy habits, like proper teeth brushing, make sure you’re close at hand. Eventually, you’ll be able to step away and trust that they can do it correctly. But while they’re learning, stay close so you can gently guide their attempts.
Remember, you want your child to develop healthy habits for their whole lifetime. So it’s important to make this process positive.
Keep mealtimes positive, where you all enjoy eating healthy foods. Exercise in fun ways that make everyone happy. Sing a silly song while you wash hands, or have a race to get buckled first. Buy a fun sticker for a bike helmet, so it’s fun for your child to wear it.
Don’t Reward with Food
Most of us understand from personal experience what it’s like to have an unhealthy relationship with food. Your child is going to get many mixed messages from advertising, but you can help them develop a healthier relationship with food right now by keeping food neutral.
Keep food out of rewards for good behavior or successes. Avoid calling food “bad” or “forbidden.” Don’t excessively control your child’s food habits by restricting or forcing. Rather, teach about healthy food and provide plenty of healthy options.
Make Healthy Choices a Family Affair
Think of ways you can all participate in healthy habits together. Parents have a strong influence on their children, and when you join in healthy activities together, you’ll create positive memories and a family culture of health.
Go for a family walk together, learn a new sport together, cook healthy meals together, make the grocery list together, and more.
7 Healthy Activities to Add to Your Family Culture
Adding one or two of these ideas to your family routine will help your family create a culture of healthy habits.
- Grow your own food. This could be a huge project in your backyard, or as simple as growing a few herbs on the windowsill. Don’t stress yourself out; just enjoy the process of planting, watching seeds grow, and harvesting your efforts together.
- Cook together. Some children are likely to try new foods they had a hand in preparing. Invite your child into the kitchen when you’re preparing a meal, and give them meal-prep tasks to do.
- Invite your child to help with meal planning. Teach your child about the foundations of a healthy meal: protein, healthy vegetable, and healthy starch. Then have them look through cookbooks with you to find a meal that interests them. Have them write down the ingredients, and even take them grocery shopping.
- Sit down together for a meal. This gets trickier and trickier as children grow up. Don’t stress about having a perfect sit-down meal together. Just try to have the family all together for a meal as often as possible. Aiming for one meal together a day is helpful for some families.
- Instigate an active tradition in your family. Maybe you all go for a Sunday walk together. Perhaps Saturdays are for the park or a hike. Maybe Tuesday evenings are a perfect time for a family bike ride. An easy way to do this is to swap out one sedentary activity for something active. If both Friday and Saturday nights are movie nights, change one of them to a family sport night.
- Don’t forget your relationships. Healthy habits are more successful when people feel connected and loved. Spending positive time together in any activity helps your child feel safe and secure — and that’s a sure foundation for healthy habits in other areas of life.
- Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand. Make it easy for you and your child to make heathy choices by choosing healthy food for your pantry and fridge. Think: apples, bananas, grapes, berries, clementines, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, yogurt, cheese, hummus, whole wheat bread and tortillas, frozen fruits, granola, pretzels, salsa, popcorn, nuts, and raisins.
At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we teach healthy habits in a variety of ways — through practice, music, art, creative movement, and so much more. To learn more about how we teach, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.