Eight Simple Rules for Raising a Healthy Kid
We all do our best to raise our kids to be as healthy as possible. Follow these simple tips to help promote a healthy lifestyle for your children.
1. Teach them to eat their veggies.
One of the toughest habits to teach our children is to eat their vegetables. In a world full of sweet treats, vegetables tend to be the last thing our kids choose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 93 percent of kids don’t eat enough vegetables. Thankfully, you can employ a few tricks to make sure your kids get the optimum amount of veggies in their diet. Start off by feeding them healthy servings of vegetables every day from a young age. Early exposure means kids will be less likely to balk at them later in life. If your kids are already turned off by vegetables, sneak them into foods they like. You can puree them into sauces, mix them into your recipes, blend kale into their smoothies or top their less healthy foods, like pizzas, with veggies.
2. Enforce handwashing.
Proper handwashing can keep your children from getting sick and spreading germs to others. Show your kids how to wash their hands in a fun and effective way. Teach them what germs are, how they spread and why washing hands is so important. To make the hygiene chore fun and effective, encourage tots to wash their hands while singing a nursery rhyme such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” As soon as the song is over, they will know they washed their hands long enough to kill all of the germs.
3. Teach good oral hygiene.
Children should brush their teeth with toothpaste that contains fluoride at least twice a day as soon as they have teeth. Start the habit early by letting your child brush his teeth all by himself. Once he has brushed, you can take the toothbrush and finish brushing for him. Many fun toothbrushes are on the market that make brushing more fun. Try out one with a light-up timer on it or with a favorite cartoon character—and let your child choose her favorite flavor of toothpaste. The more excited kids are to brush their teeth, the better their dental habits will be.
4. School them in sun protection.
Protect your kids from the sun’s harmful rays with sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that all kids wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, regardless of their skin tone. Make sure the sunscreen offers UVA and UVB protection. If your kids are near water, double check the sunscreen is water resistant—and remind kids to take a break to reapply as well. You also can cover your children’s skin with light layers and hats when the sun is at its brightest and give them sunglasses to protect their eyes.
5. Practice car seat safety
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent. However, three out of four car seats are not used or installed correctly. Safe Kids Metro Kansas City is a coalition that implements evidence-based programs—including car seat checkups and safety workshops—to help prevent childhood injuries. For a list of child passenger safety seat fitting and installations in the Kansas City area, visit MCHC.net/programs/safe-kids-metro-kansas-city.
6. Get plenty of exercise.
Guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services say that children and adolescents ages 6 and older need at least an hour a day of physical activity. Be a role model to your child by exercising regularly as a family. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Be creative and think of activities the entire family can enjoy, such as nature walks, bike rides, a game of tag in the backyard or a dance party in the living room. Cutting back on screen time also keeps your kids more active.
7. Set a regular bedtime.
Catching enough zzz’s each night can benefit your children’s memory, behavior, attention span and emotional state. Follow a calming routine before bed each night, like a warm bath or reading a story, to help prepare your kids for sleep. Children require different amounts of sleep depending on their ages. Do your research to find the optimal amount of sleep your child needs per night and base your bedtime on that. Also try to put your youngsters to sleep at the same consistent time each evening. A routine bedtime leads to healthy sleep patterns that will follow your kids into adulthood.
8. Cultivate emotional health.
Your children’s emotional health is just as important as their physical health. Help your kids cope with their emotions by teaching them healthy social skills, allowing them to express their feelings and demonstrating positive emotional reactions. Emotionally healthy kids lead to physically healthy kids.
Regan Lyons is a freelance writer who lives in St. Joseph, MO, with her husband and 4-year-old daughter.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.