Establishing good health habits in your kids is really a gift. They will take those healthy habits with them into adulthood, and may in fact set up their own households accordingly. But how can you make fitness a part of how you raise your children? Here are some tips on integrating fitness into your daily life so that your children can carry a love of health and exercise with them through a lifetime.
1. Just start
If you begin to work a healthy routine into your daily habits, your children will naturally follow. In other words, start with yourself - your kids will see the healthy habits being modeled, and children are more likely to do what you do, not what you say.
2. Start small
Rather than enrolling everyone in the family into a gym membership and spending hours daily on exercise, try taking it slowly. Maybe begin with a weekly activity such as a walk or hike, or some time tossing a ball in the park. Everyone can take a tennis or golf lesson each week, or enroll in a martial arts class.
The point is to get your children to associate fun and family with health and fitness so that they will be motivated. Your weekly activity may become a family memory that your child will want to replicate with his or her family. Then you can practice these lessons and activities during the week, or work other activities in.
3. Help in the kitchen
Learning to cook healthy food is a wonderful life skill. Let your kids help you cook healthy meals, and talk to them about what you're doing and why. Note the colors and vitamins in the food. If possible, let your kids shop with you or help grow some of your food. They can go to the farmer's market or, even better, a pick-you-own orchard or farm.
Include them in the preparation as much as is age appropriate. The more you naturally integrate your kids into your healthy lifestyle, the less it will seem like something you are "making" them do.
Snacks have a bad reputation with some people - they like to brag that they eat no snacks between meals. But healthy snacking is not necessarily a bad habit at all. In fact, it can be healthier to eat five or six small meals a day than three big ones. So rather than nagging about not snacking, encourage healthy snacking.
Have healthy snacks available that you make yourself or purchase. Nuts, seeds, raw veggies, whole grain crackers, yogurt, and fruit make healthy snacks. You can also puree fruit and freeze it, or freeze fruit juice. Snacking helps keep kids' blood sugar level more constant and makes up for nutrients missed if your kids are picky eaters.
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