It's Nicole. I got the idea for this blog post today. I've developed the healthiest habits I've ever had in the last 6 months, ironically while I deal with a chronic health issue. I have always eaten fairly healthy and worked out, but it wasn't always as consistent as it should be and I wasn't finding what I really loved. As well as I ate, I now realize it was not the healthiest I could be. I have come to realize that I never really learned how to truly be healthy inside and out when I was young. We had health and gym classes and things like that, but I wasn't taught about what the food I put in my body really does and what things I should do to keep my body and mind well inside and out. Now, I know. I have learned a tremendous amount about food and I feel so much more aware of what we put in our bodies and what it all does, good and bad. I developed a new workout routine based on strength. It took me 34 years to find my healthiest habits. Some of the suggestions below, I've done my whole life, but some, I have not. Help your children find them early and let them carry them through to a healthy and happy life.
Kids have a ton of energy inside of them. They need to get it out. That's especially true now that they spend more time in the classroom and less time outside at recess or gym class. They need movement. Some need more gentle movement, others need intense movement. In addition to movement, teach them other healthy habits involving eating, mind/body connection, and hydration.
Here are some ideas from my time as a nanny, coach, and a teacher of things you can do with your kids. And, in the process, you will get some active time and develop healthier habits yourself!
1. Start your kids young drinking a lot of water.
Kids (and us adults) should mainly be drinking water and a lot of it. We all know this, but we don't all practice it. Change that for your kids. Get them in the habit early. I have always drank water and never liked juice, soda, and milk. But, that's not typical of most people. If they don't like drinking it, add a splash of organic 100% juice with no sugar added to give it flavor. Give them water first thing in the morning. We all are dehydrated when we first wake up from being asleep and not having any drinks for so long. Get them their own special water bottle and carry that around with you filled with water. If they want some other drink like milk, tell them they need to drink one full cup of water first. You all know this, but try to avoid juice, soda and sugary drinks (even gatorades and such). I was always aware of how bad sugar could be, but through what I've learned recently, it's so much worse and I have the major digestive disorder to prove what it can do (and I didn't consume a ton of sugar).
2. Introduce Yoga:
Find a good kids yoga video and see if they take to it or maybe find a kids yoga class. Today, I went to visit a friend and her grandchildren. The youngest, who is 2 1/2, has taken to yoga. Her nana told me about it and how cute it is to watch her. So, a little bit after I arrived, I asked her if she liked yoga and asked if she wanted to show me. She held my hand to pull me along with her to get her mat. Her nana put on the video she uses (Kids Fit Yoga on Demand-Comcast) we set up next to each other. We did some of the video and then did our own poses. The video gives names to the poses that kids will relate to. "Auntie Cole, I'm an airplane!" Can you stand it?? Anyway, at 2.5 years old, she is focused and loves going through the poses. I used to also do this with a 5 year old I nannied. I found a different video on demand that had yoga for kids. We would do it in the afternoons to calm down and she loved it. Yoga is a great way for them to learn to soothe and calm themselves.
3. Find their interests:
Will all kids love yoga? NO. I have to admit, I don't love yoga. I used to. But, I find I get more fulfillment and mental clarity through strength training with weights and some sprints. Everyone is different. Maybe your child likes to dance around. I mean, really, I've rarely met a child who doesn't like to dance. Back when I first became a nanny (outside of the all the nannying I did in my own family), I watched two girls, one who was just turning 2 and the other wasn't born yet. We started our day every single day with dance parties. I would encourage them to dress up in their tutus or they could stay in their pjs or regular clothes. I would put on different CDs (some were just classic kid songs, some were kid friendly pop songs) and we would spend a good half hour or more dancing around the playroom. It was a great start to our day.
With the other girl I nannied that I mentioned above, I would do dance parties with her and her brother at the end of the day during the winter. One of our favorite songs to sing and dance to was "Say Hey" by Michael Franti. We'd also use serving spoons or brushes as microphones. Get imaginative. I would come up with the craziest dance moves and it just made them more excited. It was a good way to get out the energy they had from being stuck inside all day because of the cold and snow. During the warm weather, we would be out all day. We'd go to the park and climb and have "races" or go bike riding/scooting.
For dance parties, use both slow and fast songs. Some good songs and albums:
For the Kids: this is awesome because it has regular singers singing kid songs. Great for adults and kids!
Michael Franti: Want your kids to listen to positive music that's also upbeat? This guy is awesome.
A World of Happiness
Just Dance Kids albums. These are all great. There are a bunch of them and they have pop and rock songs that are made kid friendly and sung by kids.
The key is: Find what THEY love to do. Introduce them to many activities. Some other suggestions: tennis, soccer, playing catch, just chasing each other around. It can be anything as long as they're moving. Kids have lost a lot of their outdoor time due to longer school days and increased schoolwork. You need to find it somewhere for them.
4. Cook with them.
Come up with a plan to do this even just once a week. Choose something healthy and teach them about it. Or, something like a treat (cupcakes) but try to substitute some ingredients for healthier ingredients. Tell them what the ingredients will do for them. I used to make smoothies for the kids in the morning when I made my own. I would allow them to help me put the ingredients in the blender. I would use milk (the kind of milk will depend on what your child can/will drink. I used almond milk a lot and sometimes regular milk for them), frozen mixed berries, spinach (yes, spinach and they were fine with it once I explained how strong and energized it would make them and they realized it had no taste when mixed with the other ingredients), and a banana. Their involvement in the process helped make them want to try it more. Another great smoothie is milk, banana, some peanut or other nut butter and even add in a bit of dark chocolate so you can tell them it's a treat. There are tons of healthy and easy recipes to make with kids. Find a good blog or cookbook for this.
Make eating meals fun but also nutritious. Give them a couple (not too many) options so they feel involved. Meals and snacks should be healthy and colorful. Kids love color. You can not only use it as a way to teach healthy eating, but to work on colors as well! Maybe you make a rule that the kids need to have one green food at each meal. The earlier you start these habits, the better. Kids are picky, but did you know that if you put the same food in front of them multiple times, they'll eventually try it? Also, give incentive. When introducing a new veggie, I used to tell the kids that the veggie had to be tried and eaten before they got the other food (their rice or pasta or meat, whatever else there was that they wanted). I was consistent and clear that this was the only way to get the rest of the meal and there was never a problem with it. Sometimes, they wanted a little salad dressing or butter on the veggie or even a little ketchup. Whatever works!
6. Read every day.
Make it a routine. Before bed is a great time to do this to wind down. You can read or if they are reading, let them read. Also, encourage them to read on their own and not need you every time. I used to do this with the kids either for the older one when the younger was sleeping and I was cleaning up from lunch or something. It was quiet reading time for 20 minutes. Or, if I was cooking dinner, it was time for them both to sit and read together.
7. Practice positivity.
This is good for you and them! Look in the mirror and describe positive things about yourself and have the child do the same. You can then start a conversation of what else is positive about them. Point out things they do very well and have them repeat you. Teach them to give compliments to others. If they have siblings, have them point out positive things about them or about you.
8. Minimize screen time.
As someone who nannied for a long time and has many children in my family that I took care of from full time care of 3 toddlers for years to helping with my sister from birth until she went to elementary school, I know that you cannot realistically avoid screen time all together, especially in the day of iPads and iPhones. I mean, how would you ever get anything done or get 5 minutes to yourself? As long as they are watching something educational or playing a game that is beneficial, screen time isn't awful. However, a lot of screen time is. It overstimulates them and creates many other problems and bad habits. Teach them to do other things to occupy their time. I find kids now have no clue how to just play by themselves. Playing by themselves without adult guidance is crucial. It helps them develop some independence, creativity and imagination. You can direct them such as "now it's time for you to play by yourself. Here are some ideas. You can build with blocks, play with your kitchen and use your dolls, color, (and so on)". Make it routine. Kids love routine. I used to have the kids play together or do individual activities for 20 minutes in the morning while I prepared everything we'd need to go out for the day. Then, when we got back and I was preparing lunch, another 20 minutes and again, at dinner. One they start doing it, they will actually do it more and it's making it so you do not need to put the iPad in front of them but also do not have to be constantly entertaining them.
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