Start your children on the path to well-being
Parents can help their children develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits.
“Children look up to their parents, so parents can set a good example,” says Kimberly Leek, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Clinic, Santee.
Try these seven tips to get you and your family started.
1. Keep it positive
“Helping your children develop a positive attitude can greatly contribute to their well-being throughout their lives and help them build resilience,” says Dr. Leek. “Tell kids what they can do, not what they can’t and celebrate successes.”
2. Limit screen time
Children and teens are growing up immersed in the digital world, exposed to digital media at all hours of the day, including computers, smartphones and television. Parents play an important role in teaching their children how to use screen time in a healthy way that can enhance daily life.
“Make your own family media use plan, set limits and encourage play,” says Dr. Leek. “Overuse of media can lead to a sedentary lifestyle and displace important social interactions, exercise and even sleep.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has tools to help you create a personalized family media use plan.
3. Read with your child every day
It’s never too early to start reading to your baby. The AAP recommends starting parent-child reading at birth and continuing at least through kindergarten.
“Reading with babies and toddlers helps connections form in their young brains,” says Dr. Leek. “These connections build language, literacy and social-emotional skills that are important in a young child’s development.”
4. Make meals a colorful collage
Filling a plate with brightly colored foods translates into health benefits and nutritional value, especially when the items are in season. Think red (apples), blue and purple (eggplant and grapes), green (beans), yellow and orange (carrots and squash), and white (cauliflower).
5. Eat breakfast
Eating a balanced breakfast with protein is a good way for your child to start the day. Try:
- Hard-boiled eggs, toast and an apple
- Almond butter on whole-grain toast
- Greek yogurt
6. Enjoy physical activities
Expose your kids to a range of physical activities, from swimming to hiking, and enjoy them together as a family. Every child is different, so there is bound to be something they will enjoy.
7. Read food labels
Teach your child about nutrition by looking at the food labels for their favorite packaged snacks. You can focus on a few important parts of the label, such as the amount of sugar, saturated fat, calories and serving size. If there is more than one ingredient in a food, it must have the ingredients listed in descending order by amount. If sugar is the first ingredient listed, that snack is made up of more sugar than any other ingredient.
“With your help, your children will learn to develop healthy habits that last,” says Dr. Leek.