As parents or care givers, it can be overwhelming how much advice is out there on how to raise happy, healthy and well-adjusted kids. Whether it’s a scientific study on the rate of childhood obesity or your cousin on Facebook raving about how this program helped her kid focus in school, the amount of information can be daunting.
But, what if we told you it boils down to two simple words: healthy habits.
Why it's important to develop healthy habits early on
According to the World Health Organization, helping kids develop healthy habits at a young age External Site is one of the best, most productive ways for them to:
- Develop healthy bones, muscles and joints
- Build self confidence
- Develop a healthy heart and lungs
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drug use
- Maintain a healthy body weight
So, what exactly are healthy habits?
The University of Michigan’s School of Medicine classifies healthy habits for kids External Site as healthy eating, regular physical activity, staying safe and healthy, and healthy thinking.
By forming habits early on in life, children will have an easier time maintaining a healthy lifestyle as they get older. Teaching them now that getting physical activity can, in some instances, be a mood booster or that by eating a well-balanced breakfast they are better fueling their body for the day ahead, they will be able to take those lessons and apply them later on in life.
Get started today: help your kids adopt healthy habits
- Meal plan. This can look different for each family, but essentially, it’s a great way to help kids establish set meal and snack times. Take some time at the beginning of the week to establish set breakfast and snack options and have them at the same time each day. When it comes to lunch and dinner, check out these recipes you can add to your rotation.
- Get active as a family. Instead of sitting down in front of the TV or relying on screens for entertainment, go for a walk, play a game in the backyard or at the park, or have a family dance party. When kids are shown that getting physical activity doesn’t always have to be working out or playing a sport, they see that being active can be fun and help form connections.
- Talk about food. When parents or caregivers have conversations about food, it can help kids learn that food is fuel and they discover how certain foods can make them feel. Try limiting calling foods “bad” or “good.” Instead talk about how certain food can give us more energy and can help us feel better.
- Get school involved. Your kids spend more than half their day at school, so that makes it a perfect place to set and affirm healthy habits. Programs like Iowa Kidstrong External Site can be a great way to get your school involved in helping establish healthy habits. Check out the video below to see how one school in Des Moines, Iowa, is positively impacting its students.
By giving kids simple, straightforward examples and tools to lead healthy lives, you’re not only helping them be their best selves now, you are helping them in the future.
You can find even more helpful resources through the Iowa Department of Public Health's 5-2-1-0 program External Site. This program promotes healthy eating and active living for children and families across the state.