As parents, we do everything possible to keep our kids happy. We allow them to play sports they like, buy sweet treats they enjoy, let them stay up late watching favorite movies. Anything to see them smile. But are we doing everything we can to keep them healthy? Happiness and health go hand in hand. Follow these tips on healthy living for children to make sure your child is getting what they need to live a happy, healthy life.
Important Health Tips for Children
Teach Them That Food Is Fuel
Kids need to learn at a young age that what they put in their mouths have an effect on how they feel. Whether you have a football player, a dancer or a rock star in your house, the only way for them to stay energized is with healthy foods. Here are a few key ways that parents can help children start to appreciate what food does for their bodies, courtesy of kidshealth.org, sponsored by health experts at Nemours Foundation.
- Control the supply lines. Adults are in charge of choosing what’s in the pantry and fridge. Kids will eat, or learn to eat, what’s available. Buy healthy foods more often and only buy those favorite sweet treats once in awhile.
- Don’t promote the “clean-plate club.” Lots of parents grew up being told to clean their plates, but we now know that one of the tips for good health is that kids need to listen to their own bodies when they feel full. Children who recognize the feeling of fullness are less likely to overeat as they grow older.
- Introduce a variety of foods and nutritious drinks early. Likes and dislikes begin forming when kids are babies, so offer lots of different food choices from early on. This may mean introducing new foods several times before your child accepts them. Never force a child to eat anything, but ask them to try one bite. And teach your kids to enjoy water and milk right from the start. They aren’t full of excess calories and sugar like soda and other sweetened drinks
- Don’t make sweets the only way to celebrate. Going out for ice cream is fun, but make sure your kids aren’t always eating junk when they’ve achieved a goal. When food is used to reward kids and show affection, they may start using it to cope with emotions. Offer other types of praise such as a hug or high five.
- Be a good role model. Set a good example by eating a variety of healthy foods yourself. Don’t talk about foods in a way that will cause your child to associate food with weight gain. This can lead to unhealthy habits in the future. Show your child that you use food as fuel for your day. It will be one of the tips for good health they’ll remember.
Show Them Exercise is Fun
Unfortunately, in today’s world, only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day, and many of them are overweight. Children and teens now spend more than 7 hours per day in front of a screen. While some kids are naturally drawn to athletics, many others need guidance in order to avoid staying sedentary. One of the most important health tips for children is that exercise isn’t a chore, but rather a fun way to enjoy life. Here are some pointers from the American Academy of Pediatrics to encourage movement as a way of fun, healthy living for kids.
- Find an activity your child enjoys. Do it with them or get the entire family involved. Go for walks or play a family kickball game!
- Help your child choose an activity appropriate for her age. Chose something that won’t be too frustrating. For a 7- or 8-year-old child, soccer, bike riding, and swimming are great.
- Make time for movement each day. Don’t overschedule your child in other planned activities so that there’s no time to be active. Provide active toys such as jump ropes and balls that make moving fun.
- Get moving. Kids who see their parents enjoying physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
- Limit screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nothing more than 1 to 2 hours total including TV, videos, computers, and video games, each day. Tell them it’s time to turn screens off and encourage them to do something more active.
Instill a Love For Sleep
Sleep is vital for kids’ mental and physical health. When kids are sleep-deprived, they’re likely to exhibit behavior problems, have trouble paying attention, and have a harder time learning in school. Deep sleep is when growth hormones are released, and immunity is boosted. It’s important for kids to get a healthy amount of sleep each night in order to develop properly and avoid illnesses. Many kids fight bedtime. If you can make going to bed and falling asleep something they don’t mind doing, you’ll be starting lifelong sleep habits that lead to healthy living.
- Follow a consistent bedtime ritual your child enjoys. Provide fun toys to play with in evening baths, pajamas that are cozy, yummy choices for bedtime snacks, and books are fun before bed.
- Keep all caretakers in the loop. Tell dad or grandma not to stray from the schedule when it’s their turn to put your child to bed.
- Create a safe, comfortable sleep environment. If they complain about feeling scared in bed, let them pick out a night light or a stuffed animal that helps them feel secure.
- Stay on top of sleep trouble. If your child always has trouble falling asleep, snores frequently or has trouble breathing at night, see your pediatrician. It’s important to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical problem.
- Know how much sleep your child needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released new guidelines for the recommended amount of sleep for kids and teens. There’s a big difference in how much sleep a five-year-old needs vs. how much sleep an older child needs. If your child has been following the same bedtime schedule for a few years, it’s possible they may be able to push bedtime back a bit to make it easier to fall asleep.
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