It may be hard to believe, but a new year is days away! And with the calendar resetting, many people make ambitious resolutions. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve the health of your family. However, it may be helpful to break down big goals into smaller steps and focus on simple healthy habits that can lead to improvement. We can all do a little bit better in caring for ourselves and others, so try working these practices into your family’s daily life.
Healthy Habits for Kids (and Parents) to Start in 2022
These healthy habits are great for kids, but parents can benefit as well! Getting into a healthy routine as a family will help these habits become second nature.
1. Read Every Day
When people hear the word health, they often associate it with physical health. But intellectual health is equally important to one’s overall wellness. An easy health habit for kids to start right away is to read every day for at least 15-20 minutes. If your child isn’t old enough to read independently, prioritize reading to him or her.
Strive to read a book to your children or set aside time for them to read independently each day. This is a great habit to make part of your daily bedtime routine. Reading helps develop a strong parent-child bond, stimulates brain development as early as in utero, and cultivates active listening, strong literacy, and critical thinking skills. Reading isn’t only beneficial for children. It can also help adults reduce stress, expand their vocabulary, and improve memory, focus and concentration.
2. Get More Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is important at any age, but especially for children as they grow and develop. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following:
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers 10-13 hours
- School-age children 9-11 hours
- Teenagers 8-10 hours
Keep in mind, these are recommendations. Talk to older children about the importance of listening to your body for times when you may need more rest.
If you don’t have one already, implement a bedtime routine to reinforce the importance of getting sleep and being well rested.
3. Head Outside
Children today spend less time outdoors than any other generation. The average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen. Spending time outdoors builds confidence, promotes creativity and imagination, and gets kids moving. Not to mention the sunlight helps ensure they’re getting enough vitamin D. Have your kids play outside after school before jumping straight into homework, go for an after-dinner walk as a family, or take a weekend hike.
4. Limit Screen Time
If you encourage the healthy habits mentioned above this one will mostly take care of itself. Consider creating tech-free zones in your home, set a time limit on screen time, and have regular conversations with your children about online safety. For more tips and help creating your own family media use plan, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website.
5. Eat With Intention
Helping your kids understand the nutritional value of food incorporating a range of fruits and vegetables. For older children, teach them how to read and understand food labels to empower them to make healthier choices on their own. It shouldn’t be about moralizing foods and labeling them “good” or “bad,” but rather teaching the importance of choosing foods with the intention to nourish their bodies.
It’s not just about what you eat though. Where and how you eat makes a difference too. Family dinners at a table can be beneficial in so many ways. With homework, work schedules, and shuttling back and forth between extracurricular activities, it can be hard to maintain a consistent family dinner routine. If you can’t sit down to eat together each night, set a goal for a realistic number of nights each week. This healthy habit will not only strengthen your bond as a family but reinforce the importance of eating well.
6. Play More
Who knew that having fun could be a healthy habit? Play is a crucial part in your child’s health and development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.” So, encouraging kids to take time to play and have fun is a healthy habit everyone will enjoy. HealthyChildren.org has great ideas for age-specific playful learning in case you need help filling a “Prescription for Play.”
Contact Wake Forest Pediatrics
The board-certified pediatricians and staff at Wake Forest Pediatrics are dedicated to providing quality care to patients in Wake Forest and Knightdale. Our comprehensive approach focuses on teamwork and open communication with patients and parents. If you have questions about how to help kids form healthy habits in the new year, call our Wake Forest office at 919-556-4779 or our Knightdale office at 919-266-5059 to make an appointment.