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Childhood is all about learning new things and laying the foundation for the rest of life. It is the perfect time to develop healthy habits. The sooner we develop healthy habits in life, the longer our bodies and minds will benefit from them. So we should be doing everything we can to help our children develop healthy habits when they are young so they can thrive at every stage of their lives.
Of course, the most important thing we can do is to be a positive role model. To add to that, we've got some ideas to encourage healthy habits in 5 key areas.
- Teach children about basic nutrition including portions. Remember the Food Pyramid? Well, that has been replaced with the Choose MyPlate Food Guide. MyPlate uses a diagram of a basic place setting with the plate divided to show how much of it should be allocated to different types of food - vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein. The site even offers tips for those that consume a plant based diet. What I like best about MyPlate is that is a straightforward visual representation using something that kids see during almost every meal - a plate. It also has a ton of targeted activities, articles, and suggestions for different audiences including preschoolers, teenagers, etc.
- Involve kids in meal planning and grocery shopping. When kids have input into a process they tend to embrace it more. Include breakfast, lunch, and snacks in the planning.
- Give children responsibility to help with cooking and cleaning. I know a girl whose parents have the rule that "you only get to eat the meals that you help with". Now I'm sure there is some flexibility there, but I love the concept. Why should kids expect to partake without helping? Even very young children can help with things like rinsing produce and adding ingredients.
- Let children pack their own lunches. Give them certain parameters - maybe use MyPlate as a guide - and then let them go. It may not be exactly what you would pack, but they will most likely eat it.
- Encourage kids to incorporate outdoor time into each day. You can provide toys and equipment that will keep them busy and engaged outdoors - bikes, skates, balls, etc. - or leave them to their imaginations. Oh, and don't forget about outside chores. Gardening can be adapted for all ages and when children are old enough lawn mowing provides great physical activity. If you get snow where you live, shoveling or snow-blowing works too.
- Have frank discussions about screen time and let them help determine appropriate usage. I love technology with all the benefits and opportunities it brings to life, but the truth is, it can consume our children. It is important to teach them how to manage their time spent watching TV, playing video games, using social media, texting, etc. These activities are definitely not going away anytime soon, so children should learn to fit them into their lives with balance.
- Let children plan a physical family activity. Whether its a walk, game, bike ride, or anything thing else that keeps the family moving, give them the responsibility to plan and carryout the activity.
- Teach kids the importance of rest and why their bodies need it. I'm a firm believer that whenever possible, "because I said so" should not be the reason we give our children when they ask us why they have to do something. Although there have been times when I have used it, I do try to avoid it. And when it comes to bedtime, there are a lot of battles and questions as to why they have to go to bed. Not that you will avoid all bedtime battles, but giving children solid information as to why something is good for them often goes a long way to getting them on board...eventually. Check out sleepforkids.org for some ideas.
- Let children have input on their bedtime routine. While there will be some required elements - brushing teeth, story time - give them some flexibility. Will they read in their own bed or maybe in a reading nook or mom's bed? Do they like to put on pjs first or last? As they get older, perhaps just given them a lights out time and let them be responsible to make it happen. Eventually, they won't have mom or dad telling them to go to bed and will need to be able to make sure they are getting enough rest on their own.
- Help children find an essential oil that helps them wind down. There are several essential oils that promote healthy rest. Let your children try different options and choose the ones that works best for them. They may choose it based on the scent or perhaps by trying a different one for several nights to see which works for them. A few oils to try are Serenity Restful Blend, Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Ylang Ylang, Frankincense, Bergamot, Marjoram, Wild Orange, and Vetiver. Also, let them find the delivery method that works best for them. They can try diffusing in the room 1 hour before going to sleep, spraying on a pillow, rubbing on spine or bottom of the feet, or adding a few drops to their bath.
Toxic Load Reduction
- Teach kids to eat clean. In addition to just making sure they are getting adequate nutrition, take it a step farther and teach them how to reduce the toxins in their diets. A plant based organic diet is an excellent option.
- Drinking lots of water is also a great way to reduce toxins in your system. Have them set a goal to drink a certain amount of water each day and let them choose an essential oil to flavor their water. The citrus oils are usually a hit with kids.
- Encourage good hygiene. Toxins can find their way into our body through the environment as well as through what we consume. Children should be taught from a very young age to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly. They should also be taught other good grooming habits - regular bathing/showering, hair and skin care, etc. Of course, sometimes the hygiene products we use can actually introduce toxins into our systems. To avoid this, try some of our Homemade Natural Body Care Recipes. Making their own products is fun way to encourage them to actually use the hygiene product.
- Encourage your children to experiment with relaxation techniques. There are so many options out there - meditation, aromatherapy, yoga, guided breathing or imagery, listen to music - to name just a few. Encourage them to practice even with minor stressors so that when bigger one come along, they will have found what works for them and have some experience with it.
- Let them create custom essential oil roller blends that they can carry around with them to use as needed. Some calming oils to try are Wild Orange, Geranium, Balance Grounding Blend, Peace Reassuring Blend.
- Teach children coping behaviors. Struggles are a part of life. If children learn positive coping skills while they are young and when problems are generally smaller, they can apply those skills to larger challenges as they grow. Things like not expecting perfection, learning to face fears, developing problem solving techniques, and practicing positive thinking will all help them through life's large and small challenges.
- Reinforce the healthy habits they have learned in the other 4 key ares. The good news about stress management is that when your children have learned healthy habits in the other areas, it will help reduce their stress.
Each child has so much potential. Let's encourage them to take control of their health so they can reach that potential!
We'd love to hear from you. Please share your ideas for teaching healthy habits to children in a comment.