5 Tips for Healthier, Happier Kids

4 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

I'm most definitely not an expert, and I will never claim to be… but right now, I'm just your friend. Sitting across a cafe table, a couple of steaming cups of our favorite drinks between us like they belong there as the woodgrain of the table top weaves it's way around the base of our mugs. We're sharing stories, exchanging knowing nods and smiles because we've all been there… we still are. We're in the throes of this parenting thing. In the trenches of diapers, picky eaters, potty training. and homework (sometimes, lots and lots of homework). I'm seven years in and I feel like I'm just starting to identify the few main factors that, with a fair amount of consistency, let us enjoy our happy children instead of seeing the other side of them—the cranky little monster that is waiting to break free when their bodies are rife with too much sugar or lack of sleep.

I used to think that the way children acted was all based on choice and on discipline. I used to believe that they could just turn off the whine, or the fit, or the attitude on a moment's notice. And then I had kids.

So, though my children are NEVER perfect, and I wouldn't claim them to be, ever. And though I'm FAR from it myself, I've learned a few tips that work for our family. Lifestyle choices really. As we're currently all snuggled into our car's seat belts on a road trip and riddled with a little too much sugar and less sleep than normal, perils of a week of hotel life, I'm reminded even more why these choices are such a key to seeing that happy and healthy side of our little ones.


1/ Sleep

This is something that we all know, and yet it so easily escapes us. Things come up, week nights can get full with homework, classes, dinner, baths, etc. But it's something that we can't avoid if we want to keep our kids happy and healthy. Now, of course, I'm the first one to answer yes to a special sunset trip to the beach or concede to extra "story time" for the kids when Papa is in town, but we try and stick to a solid bed time and routine. Because of the age of our little ones, our choice for bedtime is 7:30pm (Aliyah sometimes is allowed to read a little longer until 8pm). This allows our kids to get their recommended 10-13 hours of sleep. Proper rest is vital to the healthy growth and development of children, and besides the research that shows sleep helps children be both more at rest physically and more alert mentally, we notice a huge difference in our children's attitudes and behavior. Goodness, I notice a huge difference in my own attitude and behavior when I get proper sleep.

While Skylar was yet to sleep through the night and I was weeks in on little sleep myself, I would cry at anything. Seeing my own actions (and reactions), alertness, and overall emotional state of being, it was even more clear to me how important sleep is… and why I understand now that when you're deprived of the right amount of sleep, crying or emotional behavior isn't something that's easily just "turned off" upon request.

Setting the stage for sleep with a good evening routine is important. We try and rotate in things like bath time and story time to get our little ones relaxed and ready for bed, but it doesn't matter as much what you do in the evening to prepare for bed, as long as it works for you and your family. Find something that works for you and stick with it.


2/ Remove excess sugar

Another factor that's been key for us in keeping steady days of smiles instead of the highs and lows of sugar induced hyperactivity is, well, reducing the amount of sugar that our kids intake. Of course we have days, and usually more on the weekends, where we allow for sweets and treats, but since sugar is found in just about everything, we look for ways to cut back on adding any excess.

Brayden is especially inclined towards sugar, and he knows it. Though as it goes, the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you want. Sugar promotes cravings, and so I need to continually work on this little guy's sweet tooth (he takes after his mama, by the way).

One of my favorite tricks to help get my kids drinking more water and simultaneously cutting back on sugar (because during the week they rarely drink juice and don't have any other sugary drinks) is to add frozen berries to their water. When I pack their lunches, I just add a few frozen berries to their water bottle, which flavors and sweetens the water and also keeps it cold. Of course we like doing this at home as well, and in addition to adding some flavor, it also adds color and looks delicious.


3/ Vitamins

It's true, our earth is full of natural vitamins and minerals that our bodies, and especially little bodies, need. And when our kids get full and healthy balanced meals all the time, they get most of those nutrients from food. So, while we try and feed our kids healthy and well rounded meals, and even though our kids are pretty good at eating what we give them, there are some holes that need to be filled and I always want to give my kids the best nutritional base possible. For a long time we rotated between different chewable vitamins and gummies, and recently my mom recommended to us a liquid version that for one is even more easily assimilated into their bodies, and two, a complete multivitamin with the added in effects of magnesiums which calms the nerves and boosts the immune system. So, if you feel like your kids can handle a liquid version of vitamin supplement (which it really isn't so bad!), I highly recommend this one that we've been using for awhile now. I've noticed the difference in my kids' ability to calm down at night and react to things more peacefully during the day since we've been consistent with their vitamin routine.


4/ Give them space and time

Okay, so I'm not saying to just leave your little ones to their own devices, but what I am saying is make room for the space and time to allow them to be who they are. Many times, I can get caught up in what we're doing, our own schedule, and what I think is best for the kids… and yet every day, my sweet little middle one literally stops to smell the flowers (or weeds that look like flowers to be more exact) and picks one for me. For awhile I would just try to rush him forward, spouting whatever the reason is that we needed to keep moving, the "reason" that we didn't have time to stop and enjoy the beauty around us and he would end up sad or frustrated, in turn frustrating me. Then I realized that this is him… his thing. He needs the little extra space and time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds him, to find something beautiful to share with me, the mama that he loves so dearly. When I allow him this time (just a sliver of a moment in the grand scheme of things), we are all much happier.

When I let my children know that there are a few minutes before we need to leave instead of suddenly pulling them from an activity because I just realized we need to run out the door, they react much better. It's time to allow for time in our schedules for our kids' personalities to shine through, and give them the space to grow into who they are.

To remind myself to allow space and time for little happy moments each day, I'm jumping on board with #100HAPPYDAYS on Instagram and I'd love to have you join me!

NEXT: {PLAY!} -->

5/ Let them play

With all of our schedules of homework, karate, dinner, chores, activities, and lessons, it's easy to forget that our kids are kids. Do you remember exploring your neighborhood and getting dirty playing in the yard with friends when you were young? Now it seems that when kids are outside to play, it's because we've got them on the field and ready for a game, but somewhere in our schedules, we have to allow them to let their imaginations run wild. Let them get dirty. Allow for unscheduled play. It's been reported that the decline in free play coincides directly with the increase of depression and anxiety in children, and while there are certainly others considerations, there is definitely a good thing happening when we allow our children to boost their confidence through creative play and imaginative free time. I think that by the time I was ten I was already a spy, a singer, a mother, a zoo keeper, an animal whisperer, a police woman… and so many more roles in there, and not just that, but I really believed I could be any of those titles and be great at it! Why not allow our own children the confidence to believe that they can truly accomplish anything they set their mind to by allowing their minds to explore and find what they're interested in doing, what they're interested in becoming.

Just putting this list together is a reminder to me of a few of the ways we watch and promote our kids health and happiness. Now, it's your turn, I'm sipping on my chai tea latte and wondering, what are some things you do in your household that you've noticed make for healthier, happier children? Please share in the comments, we'd love to hear!



Originally posted on my blog.

More from parenting

by Lindsey Hunter Lopez | a day ago
by Kim Grundy | 2 days ago
by Jennifer Mattern | 2 days ago
by Jen Chesak | 3 days ago
by Madison Medeiros | 3 days ago
by Jennifer Mattern | 4 days ago
by Jennifer Mattern | 5 days ago
by Gwendolyn Beetham | 5 days ago
by Claire Gillespie | 7 days ago