The key to leading a long, healthy life is to make healthy choices a habit. Starting these habits as early as possible can help to ensure that your kids are able to lead happy, healthy lives. The average American has a life expectancy of 78 years, but that number changes based on income level, region, and some other demographic descriptors. To help your child live a long life, you can help them develop healthy habits as early as possible. The tips below are a few ways you can set your child up for healthy habits they can use for years to come.
Make Healthy Snacks
Although snacking is considered by some to be an unhealthy form of eating, we all do it. Having healthy choices that you and your children can reach for instead of unhealthy ones, you'll help show your child or children that it matters less whether or not you're snacking and more where or not what you're snacking on is good for you. Here are a few healthy snack ideas:
- Banana ice cream
- Ants on a log
- pita and hummus
You can also teach your children how to prepare these snacks if they're old enough so they can make them themselves. Otherwise, having them ready to go will also be helpful.
Go On Family Walks
If you're looking to get your entire family moving and active, you can take a walk as a whole family. If your neighborhood is a good place to walk, that's usually a good place to start. Even if it's just a few blocks every day or a full hike every weekend, it's still a form of getting out and getting moving. By making it a habit, you can show your kids that exercise is a regular part of life and helping them form the habit of getting out and exercising when they can, even if it's just in a small way.
If your family does well with some friendly competition, pedometers are a great way to ensure that everyone is moving as much as possible. If your family members all have cell phones, there's likely already an app built in that will count your steps during the day. If not, inexpensive ones can be found online. You can make it a competition that you track on a whiteboard or on a piece of paper on your fridge, and at the end of every week, you can have the person with the most steps get a prize. Try to make it something that isn't food-related, like getting to choose what movie the family watches together that night or a small toy. Using food as a reward can sometimes lead to an unhealthy relationship with food feeling like a "reward" as opposed to just something you need to live, which is why choosing non-food rewards is also setting up your kids for a healthy life.
Talk About Driving Safely
Car accidents happen every day, and they can have disastrous results. Between 2015 and 2017 in Missouri, for example, there were 377 fatalities and 1,171 serious injuries caused by a commercial motor vehicle. While you can't control other drivers, try to make sure that your kids understand how to do things in their control to make riding in and driving a car as safe as possible. This means putting an emphasis on buckling up, fully stopping at stop signs, and not speeding excessively. The best way to help your kids form habits is by displaying a behavior yourself, so make sure that you're being cognizant of your driving habits while your kids are with you.
Set Screen Time Limits
Spending too much time staring at a screen can have a negative impact on your child's health, and it can also be deterring them from doing actually healthy things, like playing outdoors or otherwise moving. Setting a certain time limit for screens or only allowing screen time for a certain part of the day is a good habit to form to make sure that your kids don't end up addicted to being on their phones. If you're trying to start this habit, you can have a rule of no screens during meal times, which will also help your kids be more conscious of what they're eating and more present in any ongoing conversations.
Spend Quality Time Together
Emotional health is just as important as physical health and spending quality time together as a family is a great way to make sure that they have an emotionally healthy view of relationships with others and themselves. Whether you spend time as a family that includes both parents or if your kids are part of the 75% of children with divorced parents whose moms have custody, you can still create daily opportunities for quality time. For example, when you're having your tech-free dinner, you can have your kids share their rose, bud, and thorn of the day, or one thing that made them happy, one thing that made them unhappy, and one thing they're excited for. By sharing these three things, you can have a real and genuine conversation about their days.
Lead By Example
You can try all you want to get your kids to implement healthy habits, but if you are constantly displaying unhealthy behaviors, your kids are less likely to follow what they don't see. The best way to teach your kids that something is important is by actually doing it yourself and showing its importance in your life. If you preach not smoking, but you are sneaking out for a smoke break every day, your kids will likely figure it out. Kids are very perceptive, and they can often tell when you're lying to them or not saying the whole truth (Santa and the Tooth Fairy aside, of course).
To make sure that your kids implement healthy habits into their lives, you should try to implement healthy habits yourself. If you are eating healthy, exercising regularly, and having a healthy relationship with food, your kids are likely going to follow in your footsteps with those habits.
Forming small healthy habits can really help make sure that your kids are doing their best to engage with the world in a positive way.
Devin is a writer and an avid reader. When she isn't lost in a book or writing, she's busy in the kitchen trying to perfect her slow cooker recipes. You can find her poetry published in The Adirondack Review and Cartridge Lit.