As a parent, pretty much your every move is being watched by your kids. They observe and later copy so many things without you realising! So, knowing this, it’s so crucial to set the best example you can and create healthy habits for them right from the start. Of course, it’s hard to have all the knowledge or to even find the time to become knowledgeable on how to make sure your child is healthy (both physically AND mentally). With this simple guide full of tips and ‘to-do’s for kids of all ages, you have the perfect opportunity to help your child grow into healthy, happy and successful individuals. These tips can be very useful no matter what age your child is- even if you’re pregnant or planning to have a child some day, you can still benefit from this information so that you’re even more prepared for motherhood!
How to live a healthy lifestyle for kids
One way to equip your child with habits that support a lifetime of good health is through their diet.
More fruit! If your child has a major sweet tooth, you can slowly start introducing sweet fruits into their diet so it’s not such a drastic change. A nice way to introduce healthy food for fussy eaters is to try preparing the fruit (cutting, slicing etc) and have it ready next to them so they can eat it straight away. Chopping up colourful fruits like strawberries, melons, blueberries, kiwis etc are a great way to keep them attracted. If your child is really young, you can play around with different shapes like arranging the fruits to create the shape of an animal. Also, don’t be fooled into thinking you can swap fruits for smoothies or fruit juices. Natural whole fruits are much healthier and contain far less sugar!
Involve kids in the making process. For sure your kids will have lots of fun creating, baking and cooking different foods with your help and the younger they start, the less lazy they will be in the future to cook healthy meals for themselves. They love to get creative and get their hands dirty so what better way to do that than to make food!
Buy healthy kid snacks! Some yummy snacks include low-fat yogurt, peanut butter and celery, whole-grain crackers and cheese or hummus with carrot sticks. You can also give them healthy foods like granola bars which are so tasty!
Serve appropriate portions. Don’t allow your kids to eat as much as they want until they feel like bursting! Over-eating is a really bad habit and will encourage them to keep eating without any limits which can lead to obesity in the future.
Find healthier junk food alternatives. You might be thinking; can healthy food be tasty? Of course they can- for example, instead of ice-cream, you can freeze yogurt into popsicles and instead of French fries, you can grill hand-made chips in the oven and salt them lightly.
Cut back on saturated fat. They can cause serious diseases for your kids in the future, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. This is why healthy food is important. Some foods high in saturated fat include cakes & pastries, pizza, chocolate, biscuits, butter and cheese. Instead, go for foods that are rich in unsaturated fat, like fish, avocado, unsalted nuts and seeds.
Most importantly, be a great role model by eating healthy yourself!
Why is exercise good for your kids?
Usually, when we think about exercise, we think of the gym or lifting weights. However, exercise for kids can be so much simpler, especially for kids! They exercise everyday and stay fit in so many fun ways- through running around the playground, playing games with their friends, during sports classes at school, when riding their bikes etc. Infants need physical movement a few times every day, children aged 3-5 need 3+ hours of physical activity every day and those aged 6-17 need at least 1 hour every day to strengthen their muscles and bones and to develop movement skills. If you can’t visit the playground, then you can bring the playground into your own home with this exciting and fun climbing frame structure for kids around aged 3-9. They can spend hours being adventurous with it and they can start building their muscle strength and getting healthier in a more entertaining way!
Here are the KEY reasons why exercise is important for kids:
- Exercise helps to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cancer and in general fights diseases.
- Regular exercise combined with a healthy diet can help to reduce the likelihood of your child being overweight or obese.
- By playing outside, your kids can get more vitamin D and their bone mass will strengthen.
- By starting to exercise regularly at an early age, your kids will develop these healthy habits into adulthood.
- Exercise can help mental health. It helps your kids to relax, to relieve stress and anxiety and to generally boost their mood. It can also help them to handle physical and emotional challenges more effectively as well as improving their sleep.
- It boosts their confidence and self-esteem.
- They can develop their social skills by exercising at school or at sports clubs, socialising with the other children and making friends. They also practice working as part of a team.
- Their concentration and thinking skills will improve, therefore improving their academic achievements.
- It improves their balance, flexibility, coordination, strength and assists in the development of gross and fine motor skills.
If your child doesn’t like exercising, try to encourage them through exciting activities that they enjoy so they are more motivated to keep fit. This way they are more likely to stick to it, even as they get older.
How to promote mental health in children
What is mental health for kids?
Around 1 in 10 children are affected by mental health problems. Some of these problems include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder (which is characterized by hostile and sometimes physically violent behaviour as well as a disregard for others). This is why mental health is important. Crazily, 70% of kids who experience these problems don’t receive the appropriate intervention when they’re younger. Children’s mental health is JUST as crucial as being physically fit. Children with good mental health can cope better with any difficulties they face in life and to grow into healthy and happy adults.
As a parent, you can help to promote your child’s mental health through many things such as the things you say and do and through the safe environment you provide for them.
Some ways to help your kids stay mentally healthy include making sure:
-They eat a healthy, balanced diet, stay fit and generally be physically healthy. Healthy food can improve mental health drastically.
-They have a healthy environment provided for them, including healthy family relationships (making sure everyone gets along, no negative energy etc.)
-They are social with other kids, in school and anywhere in general
-They aren’t having problems in school, with bullying etc.
-They have the freedom to play indoors and outdoors
-You don’t constantly pressure them with their education and you try to focus on the present moments rather than worrying for their future
-Allowing them to make their own mistakes and learn from them
-You praise them for their efforts, not just their achievements
-You love them unconditionally and accept them for who they are
-You are aware of how much time they spend watching TV and using any electronics etc (especially if they’re old enough to have a phone and use social media)
If your child is experiencing anxiety, these anti-stress fidget toys and push pop stress relief toys can be the perfect on-the-go toy to keep with them at all times. They’re great in keeping your kids calm in all situations such as a doctor or dentist check-up or to comfort them in general. They are also suitable for kids with ADD/ADHD and OCD.
In the end, the best thing you can do as a parent is being there for them at all times and gaining their trust so they can be comfortable to tell you anything. If you are really concerned, then you can speak to your child’s doctor or local mental health crisis line.
Why is oral health important for children?
Healthy teeth and a healthy mouth are a really important part of your child’s general wellness. So many parents don’t really realise just how important oral health for kids is until it’s too late and you start seeing problems with your child’s teeth etc. Dentists are always emphasizing that the sooner you promote good oral health habits for your kids, the more likely they are to have healthy teeth and gums in the future.
A really important thing to remember is to take your child to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear so they get familiar with the environment and don’t end up developing any fears or phobias when they get older.
Do you know how oral health impacts overall health? Just like other areas on the body like your hands, your mouth is also full of bacteria. Poor oral health can lead to problems later in life. Although most of the bacteria is harmless, some of them can cause diseases and oral infections like tooth decay and gum disease. Teaching your kids to brush their teeth twice every day and to floss daily will help prevent those infections, prevent cavities and keep bacteria under control.
Here are some answers to some questions you might have as a concerned parent:
When should my kid start brushing their teeth?
Well, you need to start brushing their teeth for them when they’re a baby, as soon as all their teeth grow out. If your child is under 8 years old, you should watch them to make sure they don’t swallow the toothpaste.
How can you help prevent your child from getting cavities?
Brushing teeth is important because you don’t want to get cavities. Cavities are basically this: when food and bacteria is left on the teeth and hasn’t been brushed away, acid collects on the tooth which softens the tooth’s enamel until a hole (cavity) forms.
The best way to prevent cavities from forming is making sure your kids brush their teeth every morning and evening, with toothpaste that has enough fluoride in it as fluoride helps toughen the enamel which makes it harder for acid to penetrate. Try to limit sugary foods like sweets, chocolates and sweet/fizzy drinks as these can erode enamel. If your kids do eat these kinds of foods, teach them to at least rinse their mouth afterwards to wash away the sugar. Also, schedule regular check-ups and cleanings with your local dentist.
How to make brushing teeth fun so your kids are motivated to do it every day
Brushing teeth for kids every single day can seem like a boring chore so it’s really important to motivate them so they can see brushing teeth as a fun, positive experience. Some ways to make it more fun for them is:
-If your child’s old enough to use an electric toothbrush, you can find one designed with fun well-known characters like Disney stars or even a toothbrush that plays music!
-Brushing teeth for 2 minutes- play their favourite song for around 2 minutes so they can brush their teeth for the whole duration of the song.
-Develop a reward system for example by using gold star stickers to track each time they brush and floss their teeth. At the end of the week, if they have enough stars, you can allow them to choose a fun game to play on Friday night (if it’s a family game it’s even better as it involves everyone!)
To sum up, not only does our oral health affect our general health but it can also affect our self-esteem which can be detrimental for children particularly in a school setting. Their confidence, school performance and attendance can be negatively affected if they have poor oral health and this is why it's important to reinforce healthy habits and routines from a young age; so both you and your kids can have an ongoing peace of mind.
Why is smoking bad for your health: facts for kids
Did you know that EVERY day, around 3,200 kids and teenagers start smoking!? Although the number of smokers has decreased throughout the years because of substitutes to cigarettes like nicotine patches, e-cigarettes etc, it’s still a huge worldwide problem, especially with people starting to smoke from a young age.
There are some reasons why kids end up smoking- curiosity is one of them but peer pressure in school is one of the biggest. Unfortunately, so many kids are pressurized or influenced into smoking because they’re hanging out with the wrong crowds or they want to seem ‘cool’ or look older in front of others.
As parents, we need to make sure our kids are aware of how smoking affects the body so that they don’t end up going down the wrong path.
Here are 10 reasons why smoking is bad for your health:
- Smoking can cause cancer in the lungs (which is the biggest cause of cancer-related deaths around the world), as well as cancer in other parts of the body like the mouth, throat, bladder, kidney, liver and more.
- Smoking can lead to heart and blood circulation problems like coronary heart disease and stroke. People who smoke are twice as likely to have a heart attack than those who don’t.
- Smoking can cause fertility in men and women (harder for women to get pregnant and for men, a reduced sperm count and impotence).
- It’s extremely addictive- once you start, really hard to stop.
- It can cause dementia.
- It makes your skin age much faster- you’ll be three times more likely to get wrinkles!
- Smoking produces toxic fumes which can lead to becoming bald or getting grey hair earlier than most.
- It turns your teeth yellow and then after years, it will turn them brown.
- It gives you really bad breath!
- Cigarettes are really expensive so you’ll be losing so much money down the line!
Go through all these points with your kids without turning it into a boring lecture. Have an open-minded conversation with them. The best way to ensure your kids don’t end up smoking is to talk about it without judgement. Be patient and allow them to ask questions. Get to know why (or if) they want to try it or are curious about it. Discuss ways they can respond to peer pressure and practice self-confidence by encouraging them to stand up for themselves- and to walk away from those who are a bad influence.
Most importantly, let them know they can trust you to be there for them, no matter what!