Healthy Habits for Healthier Children
Raising children certainly does not come with a comprehensive manual. But when it comes to implementing healthy habits in your household, you can take the wheel and steer your children in the right direction.
“Healthy habits start at home,” says Anita Sinha MD, pediatrician for PIH Health Physicians. “Children will pick up on healthy behaviors if you instill them at an early age—all it takes is a little time, patience and planning ahead.”
Here are five tips on implementing healthy habits so that your little ones will make healthy choices even when they’re away from home.
- Talk About Hygiene – Hygiene is an important conversation to start with your children at a young age. Stress the importance of brushing teeth twice a day and flossing in between meals. Dental visits every six months, should also be a part of this routine. This can prevent diseases such as gingivitis, periodontitis and cavities. Clipping finger nails and toe nails should also be a regular routine. Keeping short nails on their hands will prevent dirt and germs from spreading. Clean toe nails will prevent them from any fungal infections. Other hygiene habits should include applying lotion to prevent skin from drying and cracking and cleaning ears on a daily basis to prevent buildup. If children learn the importance of hygiene at a young age, chances are they will carry this over into adolescence and adulthood—when you’re not there to remind them to do so.
- Portion Control – Portion control is a healthy habit. Teach your children the importance of managing their food intake at a young age so that when they are older they know their limits. Serve portions according to their age and do not force them to finish their meals if they express that they are full. Over serving your children can lead to over consumption, which can then lead to obesity in young children. ChooseMyPlate.gov has a chart that you can reference and use at home. The less salts and added sugars you use on meals and drinks, the less likely they will want it later on in life. Water should be on your drink menu whereas juices and soft drinks should not. Naturally flavored water is always refreshing. Try cutting up some fresh fruit and adding it to a pitcher of water. Let it sit in the fridge overnight and enjoy the next day.
- Physical Activity and Exercise – Keep your children active at an early age. Limit screen time and set boundaries. Whether it is signing them up for sports or staying active together, get them used to at least 60 minutes of outside physical activity each day. As a result, your child will most likely develop some active hobbies and carry them into adulthood (or become an all-star athlete)—they can thank you later.
- Laugh Together – Laugh with your child. Let them see your silly side and teach them to have a sense of humor. There have been several studies that have found laughter to reduce stress levels, and in some cases, pain levels.
- Routine Doctor Visits/Annual Wellness Exams – Teach your child the importance of seeing his or her doctor on a regular basis. Annual check-ups are an important way for you to keep track of your child’s growth and will give you an opportunity to address any health concerns. Staying up-to-date with vaccinations will prevent certain illnesses within your child as well.
“Setting the foundation for a well-rounded healthy lifestyle in our children’s lives will really take them far in their future,” says Dr. Sinha.
For pediatric care information, resources and more, visit PIHHealth.org/Peds.