The recipe for raising healthy kids may seem complicated in today’s world of video games, fast food and overscheduled calendars, but making small changes can make a big difference. Here are five quick tips from parents and experts.
Play with your kids.
Kids need to move and be active to be healthy. Although they may balk at going to the gym, most kids will not turn down the opportunity to play. “One of the best ways to keep kids physically active is to play with them,” says fitness consultant and mom Yvonne Greer. “My kids and I love to play chase around the house or outside in a field. We like to race up and down the sidewalk, kick a soccer ball around, play freeze tag at the park or try to do cartwheels and somersaults. My husband takes them on nature walks and bike rides and plays pool games.”
Be a good role model for your kids by exercising — and don’t be surprised if they want to join you. “The kids watch us doing our regular workouts,” says Greer. ” We have a treadmill and spinning bike at home, plus weights and tubes. They see us doing push-ups, crunches and yoga poses, and they want to do some too.”
Limit computer and TV time.
Too much time spent watching TV or on the computer and playing video games is not only unhealthy physically, but can also limit a child’s social development. “I suggest parents only allow one hour of entertainment electronics media per day during the week and up to two hours a day on weekends and holidays,” says parent educator and author Bill Corbet. “The less time kids spend in front of the video screen, the more time they are apt to spend on healthier activities.”
Eat the rainbow.
One way to help kids eat healthy food and vegetables is to tell them to eat food in every color of the rainbow — and, no, M&Ms do not count. “Fill your reusable shopping bag with fruits and veggies in every color of the rainbow,” says celebrity trainer Kathy Kaehler. “After shopping, immediately wash, chop and store them. Make it a goal to gobble down one serving each of red, green, yellow, purple and orange foods each day. Set up your counter like an appetizer bar. Fill salad plates with cut-up veggies like jicama, persian cucumbers and cherry tomatoes; include frozen green grapes, apple slices sprinkled with lemon juice, and sliced bananas with toothpicks.”
Make sleep a priority.
For optimum health, kids need sleep so they wake up feeling happy and rested. The amount of sleep your child needs depends of many things, one of the most important being age.
Experts recommend these general sleep guidelines:
- Newborns: 15 to 16 hours of sleep per day
- Babies up to 1 year: 14 to 15 hours of sleep per day
- 1 to 3 years old: 12 to 14 hours per day
- 3 to 6 years old: 10 to 12 hours per day
- 7 to 12 years old: 10 to 11 hours per day
- 12 to 18 years old: Eight to nine hours per day
Need help convicing your child of the importance of sleep? Her body secretes growth hormone as she sleeps, which means she actually grows as she snoozes.
Connect with your kids.
Make a point to spend quality time with your kids. They need your love and guidance, and connecting and talking with them each day is important to build this connection. “Have a conversation with each child every day. Don’t wait for something bad to happen to get involved,” says author and grandmother Karen S. Elliott. “Be involved. Know their friends.”
Father, board-certified internist and holistic healing specialist Dr. Michael Finkelstein agrees. “Whether through regular family dinners or by scheduling quality time each week to reconnect, make sure you set aside time to bond with and truly appreciate your child.”
Take time each day to follow our tips to raise healthy and happy kids. You’ll teach them lifelong lessons and skills they need to be healthy and happy adults — and you’ll improve your own health while you’re at it!
More ways to raise healthy kids
Preventing childhood obesity
A special segment on childhood obesity and how sitting down for a home-cooked meal can make kids healthier