Teaching Children Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Children learn habits early on in life. It takes a much shorter time to develop a habit than to break a habit, so as parents it is important to teach your children healthy ones at a young age. There are several ways to teach good habits, but first, what are healthy habits?

The healthiest things we can instill in our children are physical activity and healthy eating. Everything else stems from this: good oral hygiene, vitamins and lots of water to support growing bodies, regular sleep patterns, etc. All good habits can be related to diet or exercise, so this is the best place to start with your children.

When babies begin with solid foods, they may eat everything given to them or be picky about most things. They could also eat everything when they are young and develop picky eating patterns as they get older. The good news is that if a non-preferred food is introduced several times, a child will develop a taste for it after about ten times eating it. This includes broccoli, brussel sprouts, or anything that has a strong flavour.  Repetition is the key for developing a love of healthy food that is otherwise not eaten. Also try presenting the food in different ways, such as broccoli with cheese, raw or cooked, etc. This developing of taste preferences works for any age.

With children who are a little bit older, it is fun to teach them about the benefits of healthy food and beverages. Preschool aged children enjoy learning about almost everything, so use this time to research and share with them what certain foods can do for them. For example, protein is great for energy and leveling out blood sugar, carbohydrates give energy, etc. Make sure you teach them about junk food too, because if they know all the reasons they shouldn’t eat it they are more likely to reach for that apple. You may tell a child that although a chocolate bar or glass of juice tastes good, it might hurt their stomach with all the sugar, it will make it more difficult to focus on anything, it could cause cavities, and there are many different chemicals that may harm other parts of their body as well.

Once a child knows the basics of healthy eating, they will likely be interested in learning more about healthy living. Introduce the concept of physical activity and exercise, and tell them all the benefits they get from it. Point out that activities they enjoy, such as playing tag or riding a bike, qualify as exercise. It is important to teach this generation that physical activity is enjoyable, as well as having many benefits. Let children know that the more time they spend doing physical activity, the stronger they will be. Being physically active from an early age also gives children better fine motor skills and coordination, so they will be better at things like colouring and balancing.

Once children have the basic knowledge of healthy eating and exercise, show them how they are tied together. Point out that if they fill their bodies with healthy food and vitamins, they will have more energy for the physical activity they love. Call attention to how healthy they feel after they have had some exercise. They will learn to recognize this feeling of well-being and find ways to become more active. When children question why they need to be so healthy, this is the time to tell them that it affects  many other things, like dental health, skin condition, energy level, etc. Present it in a way that’s understandable for their age level, and they will be satisfied.

There are several ways to teach children healthy habits, and they can all be made fun. You can make food charts, have a child help with the grocery list, do aerobics or dancing, etc. Children should be taught as early as possible to make healthy choices. Remember too how important it is to teach  by example. The words won’t mean much if children don’t see you making healthy choices with your food and physical activity. Consistency is key, for you and them.