As many adults make New Year's resolutions that involve better eating habits and making healthy choices, it can be just as important to include children in those plans. While many “experts” will affirm that it takes only 21 days to start a new habit, we all know that it’s different for each person, especially for little ones. For kids, habits—both good and bad—can be comforting. Like routines, kids can benefit from having some healthy habits in place—especially when it comes to eating.
As role models who are constantly being watched and observed by your kids (more than you realize), don’t miss the opportunity to implement healthy eating habits at an early age. Here are five helpful tips to get you started.
For this generation of children who are heavily tempted with all types of distractions, intentional daily face time with your kids is greatly important, and meal time can be one of the best ways to do it. Implementing the habit of sharing meals together as a family can improve behaviors, while also advancing toddler vocabulary—not to mention teaching kids to eat healthier. As a bonus, include children while cooking for additional bonding time and opportunities to teach them about healthy ingredients.
Shopping with kids can be helpful when teaching them how to make good choices. Consider giving them a few tasks while in the store, such as looking for grocery list items, choosing fruits and vegetables, or even deciding which items to add to the list. For older preschoolers, consider reading nutrition labels together to learn what food items are best for everyone’s health. Also, visiting a local farmers’ market with your child can be an excellent opportunity to teach children about local food, different types of farming, fruit and vegetable seasons, and healthy eating.
Healthy eating habits work best with good exercise habits. You could organize some times each week for the whole family to get moving together. Whether it’s walking through the neighborhood or local park, taking a bicycle ride, or even taking a parent-child exercise class (yes, it’s a thing), everyone can benefit from the intentional exercise and bonding time.
Ah, technology. It helps us in so many ways, yet it can also consume us. So, what does technology have to do with healthy eating habits? For one, too much screen time keeps us from being active and can also contribute to excessive snacking. Especially for kids, it is important to unplug as often as possible, keeping screen times and potentially unhealthy snacking to a minimum. Instead of just making this a house rule for kids, try implementing it for the whole family. You’ll love the results!
Everyone—especially children—enjoys a little praise. Find ways to establish a positive environment of celebrating successes when it comes to eating healthy and making good food choices. Just like with household chores, as children see goals accomplished and celebrated, they will experience a rewarding feeling that can lead to proactive behavior as they grow.
Implementing healthy eating habits with your children at a young age can have lasting benefits long into the future. Through cooking enrichment classes which help students learn about health and nutrition, structured play in classroom learning centers, as well as sharing healthy meals together in our Kids Café, The Gardner School uses a variety of learning tools to help children understand the importance of healthy eating during the school day. We hope these tips help you continue the learning process at home.