With school beginning this fall and homework and social engagements beginning to pile up, finding new ways to keep our kids eating fresh foods and staying active can pose a major challenge. In my experience, the key comes from engaging our children in their health and making it fun for them.
It’s not just about giving your child choices, but by teaching and allowing them to make their own decisions that can help carry good habits and behavior into adulthood. In fact, kids going into college with healthy habits are much more likely to stick with those habits in the long run, despite all of the temptations present.
How can we engage our children in healthy habits, you ask? 4 ways are listed below:
1. Make health a joyful experience.
If you want them to be more active, make it fun! Find activities they enjoy, like sports or dancing, and get them started early in the season. Take a family hike on Saturday mornings, or look for treasures on the beach or in the park. Take them to farmers markets (yes, there are some in the fall, too!) and let them experience the flavors of fresh organic produce and treats. Make healthy and fun treats at home, such as peach popsicles or banana breakfast cookies. Choose or make toys that mimic the positive choices you want them to practice, such as creating a fruit stand together or selling mock veggies. Or, for older kids, come up with a new recipe together and then make it.
2. Seek like-minded peers.
Find friends for your kids and yourself that are interested in similar health choices. Activities such as nature camps, yoga and meditation classes, weekend food demos, cooking classes, and local festivals bring together like-minded peers and help your child meet friends and role models they can relate to.
3. Engage your family and community.
Talk to your family, close friends, and your child’s teachers about your visions for your child and the way you want them to be raised. Explain if you follow a specific diet, like vegetarianism or a gluten free diet, so they are prepared. Potlucks are a great way to share delicious meals you eat, or take turns with other parents or neighbors to make great lunches for your kids. For school – stock some tasty snacks, or bring some in for birthdays or upcoming holidays so your child’s teacher is prepared.
4. Be creative.
Have fun with mealtime – make fun shapes and colors on your child’s plate! Download cooking apps or look at Pinterest for new ideas. Explore new recipes with your friends or online, and share the process with your children. Allowing them to choose their meals and engaging them in food prep is a great way for them to enjoy mealtime and get excited about what they make.
By teaching children about health and helping them create their own healthy habits, we are setting them up for success in the future!