Kids are sponges – absorbing everything from the things they hear and see to the things they do every day. Parents try to teach them manners, like "please," "thank you," and cleaning up after themselves. But what about forming healthy habits regarding food and exercise? It’s easy to bribe kids with sugary rewards and computer games. But imagine trying to sell your kid on an extra serving of broccoli if he cleans his room. Not happening. Yet, it’s important to have your entire family practice healthy habits, however you manage it, making it easy and enjoyable.
You move, they move. Maybe you're not an avid gym-goer. You don't need to be a fitness expert to set an excellent example for your kids, but you do need to show them that getting up and getting out is important. Take the dog for a walk, choose the stairs, make up games or play the classics like tag and hide-and-seek. If you are getting to the gym, ask about kids' programs. There are several offered now compared to a decade ago, like Les Mills Born to Move, the Let's Move organization and the American Heart Association's Jump Rope program. It doesn't have to be an organized sport, but it does need to be fun. The more enjoyable something is, the more likely they are to continue it. And this responsibility is going to fall on you as a parent since only six states require physical education in schools.
>> Read more: Fitness from the Heart: Rewarding Exercise for Kids
Promotes togetherness. You don't have to do everything together, but designating time to have to yourself is just as beneficial for the kids as it is for you. Exercise isn't just physical; it can be mental, too. Give your kids the chance to use their imaginations and creativity, which will boost independence and confidence. It also teaches cooperation and sportsmanlike conduct by having the child think of others rather than just himself. Click here for some outdoor fun the whole family can enjoy.
Unplug to play. There’s nothing wrong with using the TV as a babysitter while you hit the shower or try to fold laundry, uninterrupted. Yet, it’s so easy to keep that thing turned on, either for background noise or a distraction. Turn it off; hide the tablets, phones and other gaming systems. Pull out a board game to get the brain juice flowing or pick up some sidewalk chalk to use outside. Whenever kids get to play outside, it helps strengthen their immune systems, stimulates their imaginations, challenges their problem-solving skills and provides them with vitamin D. Even if you can’t get outside, your kids can practice social skills while parents can relieve stress and build their relationships with the kids. Click here to read about 11 habits keeping you overweight.
The 21-day myth, busted. There’s this rumor going around that creating any type of habit takes only 21 days. But having your kids eat their veggies for three straight weeks is not going to set them up for veggie-eating for life. It needs to be a continual effort, from actually making the decision to learning about why they need to make healthy choices. Going back to the 21-day habit forming myth, a study shows it actually takes more like 66 days, on average. Even though a habit exists, it can still be broken. So, having the entire family on the same page can increase encouragement and longevity.