It’s that time of year again! The kids are out of school and looking for fun things to do. After a few weeks of summer vacation, boredom can set in. It can be easy to turn on the television or video games to keep kids occupied when you need a break.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the food and beverage industry spends approximately $2 billion per year marketing to children, and the fast-food industry spends more than $5 million every day marketing unhealthy food to children! The average kid watches over ten food-related ads every day (nearly 4,000 per year), according to the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine. Those are big numbers.
What can you do as a parent to help keep your kids healthy and arm them against this barrage of unhealthy information?
Involve Kids In Meal Preparation
It can seem like a nightmare to invite your children to help you with meal preparation. However, being involved gives them the opportunity to get in touch with real food vs. a prepackaged snack. It might even lead to an appreciation of how hard you work to create the meals you provide. Let your child crack the eggs, stir, pour the milk or be in charge of the salad (depending on age). Provide lots of options for vegetables, but ultimately let your child pick what goes in the bowl. You can even pick up a kid’s cookbook or one of the healthy recipes provided by Everyday Health and pick a recipe to try over the weekend when your family might have more time for meal preparation.
Give Them Some Choice
Parents need to set the tone when it comes to food choices. Kids like having options, but don’t let unhealthy choices win out. Giving your kids the choice between two healthy alternatives will make them more open to trying new foods. Present two different healthy choices and let your child pick which one to enjoy. Vegetables may not be your child’s favorite. You can start out with “Tonight we are having vegetables. Would you like to have the peas or the carrots?” Have them take one bite to start and build on that in the future.
Be A Healthy Role Model
Parents are in the best position to be a healthy role model for their children because you spend the most time eating together. Make good choices yourself. Your children will follow. This might not happen overnight, but you are laying the groundwork for the future. Be sure to eat dinner together most of the time – television turned off. This will give you a good opportunity to talk about some of the healthy foods you are eating. Make fruits and vegetables part of your meals and your children will mimic your behavior.
30 to 60 Minutes Of Play – Everyday!
Exercise should be fun – not a chore. Make playtime with your child interesting by making up games to be active. Motivate your child by creating a goal-centered play. Set up an obstacle course by drawing a hopscotch board with sidewalk chalk, kicking a ball over the finish line, or hopping on one foot for 30 seconds. Can you beat your record next time? Playtime does not have to happen all at once. Several small bursts of active play can add up to a healthy kid!
Get Enough Rest
Shortchanging your child on sleep can lead to whiny behavior and tantrums. Although it can be tempting to “pack it all in”, making sleep a priority for your child (and you) will lead to happiness. Here are some guidelines for sleep at different ages, according to the National Sleep Foundation:
Newborns (0 to 2 months): 12 to 18 hours
Infants (3 to 11 months): 14 to 15 hours
Toddlers (1 to 3 years): 12 to 14 hours
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 11 to 13 hours
School-age children (5-10 years): 10 to 11 hours
Teens (10 to 17 years): 8.5 to 9.25 hours
Adults: 7 to 9 hours
Whatever your plans are this summer, these tips will help your children learn and practice healthy habits that will stick with them for a lifetime!
What have you done to keep your kids healthy? Did you use any of these tips? Share your thoughts with us!