Teaching Your Kids About Health and Fitness
At times, I wonder if my kids listen to a single thing I say. If the sentence doesn’t contain the word chocolate, they may not even make eye contact with me. And yet, health experts say that parents are the biggest influence on children’s nutrition and exercise choices. We, as moms, wield more power than we think. And if I take the time now to instill good habits with my kids, they will reap the rewards for the rest of their lives. The good news is that it’s not hard.
Make it stick.
As a television show, Yo Gabba Gabba makes my eye twitch. But the program has some compelling messages. When my kids ask for a second piece of candy, I start singing, “Too much candy’s gonna make you sick! All that candy’s gonna make you so sick!” They know to stop asking once Mom starts singing. But it’s been a valuable lesson. And I try to show them that there is a wondrous world of delicious food that is also healthy. I take them grocery shopping and we pick out healthy treats, like strawberries. I avoid talking about going on a diet, because I don’t want them to develop the belief that eating right is only something you do to lose weight. Instead, I focus on how eating right makes me feel good and gives me the energy to do the activities I want to do. And that is something I hope that all of us will do for life.
Get up, get moving.
Kids naturally want to run around and play games. But when we’re tired, it can be tempting to encourage them to stay inside and play quietly. I am a busy mom, and I don’t have time to spend the whole day at the park. So I take a few different approaches to solving this problem. The most obvious is classes and teams. Opportunities abound even for small children to participate in a team sport, from ballet dancing to hockey, from yoga to martial arts. I encourage my kids to pick a sport to play twice a year. Between the seasons, or when the weather is bad, we do indoor exercises together. A good game of “the floor is lava” is an awesome choice for stability and balance. But I also like to get the kids involved with workout videos designed just for them. Did you know Tony Horton (p90x guy from Beachbody.com) has a workout video for kids? My kids seem to really enjoy it, and Tony’s goofy jokes keep them laughing. It’s perfect for a snow day when the house starts to get a little restless.
Call in reinforcements.
As much as I encourage healthy behavior, sometimes it just doesn’t sink in. For example, my kids love just about every fruit in existence. But getting them to eat their vegetables is another issue entirely. This is the perfect time to ask for help. My kids take their pediatrician very seriously. When she explains to them how important it is to eat the right foods to stay healthy, they usually listen more readily than they listen to me. And, a few healthy dips can always help add some flavor. Just be careful about the ingredients. Ranch dressing and creamy dips may mask the taste of some vegetables, but the added calories and filler ingredients will do more harm than good. I’ve introduced hummus into our house; I use this recipe from The Pioneer Woman to make it myself – and my kids have really enjoyed it!
Getting my kids to eat right and exercise isn’t always easy. But I have found that by encouraging their activities and emulating the behaviors I’d like them to adopt, I have made positive changes in their lives. It actually hasn’t been terribly difficult. I sign them up for sports, let them participate in healthy meal planning, and get the experts to talk to them when I need backup. If it were this simple to get them to clean their rooms, I’d be set.
Fair warning: this song may get stuck in your head!