Building healthy habits for children in their youth nurtures the foundation for healthy lifestyles throughout their lives. As society grows more complex, it’s becoming increasingly more important to equip children with habits that will help them successfully navigate life’s challenges. Healthy habits cannot be merely learned, but they need to be practiced continuously throughout childhood to be effective in adulthood. Habit modifications are possible as children turn into adults; however, making improvements can prove to be much more arduous. Give your kids a head start and teach them now. Here are the top five healthy habits to teach children to lead them to a life of smart choices:
1. Healthy Eating Habits
Obesity is one of the top preventable illnesses in the country. Obesity not only contributes to poor health but it also has serious social, psychological and professional consequences. One of the best ways to prevent childhood and adult obesity is by practicing healthy eating habits. Teach your children to consume a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, free-range meats, and whole grains. Promote frequent, modest meals, moderation and portion control. Have your children drink plenty of water as opposed to sweetened drinks and milk. Teach your child that dessert and candies are only for special occasions. Oftentimes, children learn many of their eating habits from their parents, so be careful about what you consume or keep available in the house.
2. Physical Activity
Physical activity is extremely important to your child’s overall health, as it can help maintain weight and also moderate moods. Studies show that kids who participate in a sport achieve better stress management, increased confidence and are less likely to engage in risky behavior. Children practicing sports or fitness are also less likely to have time for negative activities. The play involved in children’s sports teaches them social skills, problem solving, and how to work as a team towards goals. The progressively challenging task that fitness presents will also help them to develop discipline, planning and self-control skills. One example of such an activity is swimming, and classes are often offered for infants and toddlers. Additionally, it is a practical safety skill for young children under 5. T-ball is another great choice for young children, as it’s relatively easy and involves few risks of injury.
3. Exposure to Books
Books hold a world of resources that will help your child self-educate in a society that has few, readily evident answers. Developing a love and habit for reading at a young age will help your kids be more comfortable with books and teach them invaluable literacy skills. People who read frequently also tend to be more informed and conscientious members of society. The ideas and characters in books offer countless examples of heroic figures and theories to consider and emulate; storytelling through books is one way children learn about essential human values. Have plenty of books around the house for them to choose from or make regular trips to the library together. Get into the habit of reading together everyday so they grow accustomed to the routine.
4. Consistent Bed Times
Having healthy sleep cycles helps maintain mental clarity and focus, and wards off negative emotional states. It’s critical that your child develops healthy sleeping habits. We know that lack of sleep is bad for our health but we often underestimate how important consistent resting and waking times are as well. Tardiness and truancy from work or school due to irregular sleep patterns can often lead to serious consequences. Having a regular sleep cycle also wards off disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Help your child become accustomed to a consistent time to go to bed and wake up every day.
5. Moderate Use of Electronic Media
Many parents are concerned about the nutritional and physical health of their children, but underestimate the influence of excessive media. It’s important to be cautious of the impact, as even experts are not entirely sure what effect media has on the child psychology. Media often contains violent or subversive content that normalizes risky behaviors, and can also give children an inaccurate view of the world around them. Without guidance, they may have a difficult time differentiating reality from entertainment and propaganda. Of course, not all media is connected to negative effects, but it’s important to help your children learn how to moderately and intelligently consume media. Remove televisions and computers from their bedroom and keep it in a place where they can be monitored. Teach them to use media only when other tasks are completed, and encourage more active hobbies or activities instead.
Brett Callan is an instructor at murraycallanswimschools.com, where their Encinitas swim lessons offer customized support for children throughout San Diego. He loves to enjoy the San Diego weather whenever he can, whether from the beach or at a pool.