By: Cheryl Maguire
April 24-28 is Every Kid Healthy Week, which was created to celebrate school health and wellness achievements. Every Kid Healthy events promote healthy eating, nutrition education, physical activity, and physical education.
A child’s health encompasses physical, mental, and social well-being. It is important to maintain good overall health in children so they grow and develop appropriately. My grandfather used to say, “If you have your health, you have everything.”
If you and your child are healthy, you will have more energy, lower medical costs, improved moods, and an increased lifespan. Here are some ways to promote healthy habits within your child:
Create a Bedtime Routine and Regular Bedtime: Sleep helps your brain function properly which improves learning. Studies show sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Receiving the proper amount of sleep promotes appropriate growth and development, improves social interactions, and increases immunity against diseases.
NIH recommends school-age children and teens should sleep for 9-10 hours per night. Bad sleep habits will affect both their physical and emotional health. One way to ensure your child is receiving enough sleep is to create a scheduled bedtime based on when they need to wake up in the morning. If you maintain the same bedtime every night, it will be easier to fall asleep and create a healthy habit.
Another way to help your child receive the proper amount of sleep is to have a bedtime routine a half-hour before the expected sleep time. This routine will help your child relax which will then lead to falling asleep easier. Some suggested bedtime routines are reading, a warm bath, drawing, listening to soothing music, or other calming activities.
Read Food Labels: According to the CDC childhood obesity has more than tripled since 1970. Childhood obesity has both short and long term effects on a child’s physical, social, and emotional health. For this reason, it is important for a child to maintain a healthy weight.
Reading and understanding food labels is a way for a child to figure out if a food is healthy to eat. The food label will demonstrate the number of calories, sugar, fat content and also break down the percent of the recommended daily intake to help create a balanced diet. It also helps to become more aware of what you are eating since you might think a food is healthy only to learn it isn’t after reading the food label. You can find free printable worksheets to help your child understand a balanced diet here.
Exercise with Your Kids: The CDC recommends children and teens should be physically active for 60 minutes per day. The physical activity should include aerobic, strengthening, and bone strengthening activities. If you exercise with your child and select something you both view as fun, you will be more likely to do it. Some suggested family activities are walking, running, hiking, dancing, biking, and a workout class or video. Create a weekly scheduled routine to incorporate it into your life which would create a healthy habit.
Limit Screen Time: Screen time consists of watching television, playing video games, and using electronic devices. When a child is in front of a screen, they are typically sedentary and not interacting with others. A research study at UCLA found when kids have too much screen time they have difficulty understanding other people’s emotions. Dr. Leonard Epstein studied the effects of limiting screen time in obese children. The findings demonstrate when screen time was limited the children consumed 300-1500 fewer calories. Both of these research studies demonstrate the importance of limiting screen time to help your child socially interact with others, eat fewer calories, and be more physically active.
Encourage Social Interactions: It is important to encourage your child to develop healthy relationships with peers and adults. Problem-solving, managing friendships, and understanding emotions are necessary for a child’s positive mental health. These skills will also enable a child to learn more effectively in the classroom.
Discuss Physical and Emotional Safety: According to the CDC, one of the leading causes of death in children is car accidents. One study found over 600,000 children did not use the proper car seat or seatbelt, which could prevent death during a car accident. Other accidental deaths include drowning, fire/burns, guns, poisoning, and suffocation. To prevent injuries and death, it is important to discuss safety issues regarding all of these potentially dangerous situations.
Children and teenagers may be in situations when they are offered drugs or subjected to physical or sexual abuse. It is important to discuss with your child healthy and appropriate relationships.
Be a Healthy Role Model: Children and teens model their parent’s positive and negative behaviors. Research conducted at Duke University found kids were more likely to eat well and exercise if their parent modeled those behaviors. If you model a healthy lifestyle, your child will most likely lead one as well.