General Health & Wellness • Mar 01, 2011

Healthy Heart Habits for Kids (and their parents!)

  • Get moving!  Encourage a variety of activities both indoors and out that help kids to be active and move around.  Every child is different so even though soccer was your favorite sport, be open to trying new things. Perhaps tennis is more your kiddo’s speed! Limit time in front of the TV and computer (including handheld games like ipad and iphone etc) to 1-2 hr per day at the most and if possible try to integrate games that include some form of physical activity.  Studies have shown that an active childhood gives your kids a better chance of maintaining an active lifestyle in adulthood.   Getting everyone in the family involved in the activities promotes good health for the whole family, and is great for bonding and getting to know each other better!  Try a whole family game of tag football, freeze tag, even laser tag! (I know, that’s a lot of tags….)
  • Be a good role model!  It’s hard to encourage a healthy active lifestyle if you don’t model it for them.  Eating healthy, remaining active and going to see YOUR doctor for regular checkups models good healthy behavior your children can emulate.  Monitoring things like weight, BMI and blood pressure for both you and your child are important.  Frankly, if your kids see you neglecting your health (avoiding the doctor’s office, not taking meds, smoking, etc), it doesn’t encourage them to make efforts at maintaining their own.
  • Reward good behavior!  Use the reward system as opposed to a more negative punitive system to encourage activity, but try to avoid using games and rewards like snacks and food to encourage good healthy habits.  Sending confusing messages by offering dessert for eating your veggies is just confusing to the literal mind of a child. Try thinks like going to the park to play, to the zoo, bike riding together as rewards instead.  You’ll be surprised by how much more it means to your children to have time devoted to them rather than chocolate. 
  • Be realistic!  You can’t change bad habits overnight.  Start with making small changes in the household routine and include the whole family in the changes.  You aren’t going to stop desserts and unhealthy snacking in a day, but you can substitute the unhealthy desserts with healthier options.  Try baked pears with a drizzle of chocolate syrup instead of the pie and ice cream!
  • Read labels! It sounds boring, but paying attention to what is in the food you eat is an important way to monitor your healthy diet.  Start the habit early in childhood by making a game of it in the grocery store.  The more you are aware of what you eat, the more control you can take of your health.