Thanks to our many readers who shared their clever ways to teach healthy living habits to their children.
Here are a few of their suggestions:
Reading food labels
“We typically buy only organic, natural and whole foods. We have taught our children from day one how to read labels on food. We explain to them what the bad things are in food and how it will affect them now and in the long run. We like to purchase and prepare healthy food together. Now when my kids are at school or at a friend’s, they know to ask if the product they are being served has hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup in it.”
Making a food photo collage
“I made a collage of healthy food, putting pictures of the good nutritious food on a paper and another collage of pictures with junk food with pictures of unhealthy food. We often talk about these two collages. My children are very curious and they like to see the pictures. The last time we were out, my 2-year-old daughter saw a child drinking Coke. She said, ‘Look, mother – junk food!'”
From pilates to biking: Making exercise part of the daily routine
“I have them do a form of exercise every day. We have an exercise schedule. Mondays and Fridays are ‘free days’ where the kids can pick their own outdoor activity. Tuesdays and Saturdays are yoga. Wednesdays and Sundays, we do Pilates (my own variation for the kids). Thursdays we do sports. In addition, the kids ride their bikes every day. The toddlers also stay very active. They have their own version of all the same activities I do with the older kids. The toddlers also have bikes to ride, but on days when we ride too far for them to keep up (and they are in a bike-attached canopy), I play music with them later and have them dance, jump and play. If you set a good pattern, they will automatically follow it. The same goes for the bad patterns, too.”
Living the good life at the family spa
“I am a licensed massage therapist in Pasadena, Texas. One of our monthly quality family-time themes is ‘Spa Night’! Mommy brings out the candles and Daddy puts on the relaxing CD. My kids hop up on my massage table after changing into a robe and get a muscle rubdown. Kids have so much homework, peer pressure and issues at schools these days. This is perfect for tension relief.
“The warmth and connection you bring your kids during Spa Nights is such a great gift for both you and the children! You can also take the time to clip fingernails and toenails (8-year-old boy!). My 14-year-old son loves to relax and be loved. My 13-year-old daughter loves to get free pedicures and manicures, and my 8-year-old son loves to live the good life!”
Growing, cooking and eating healthy food
“In my family we have 3 children, ages 18 months, 3 and 5. Healthy eating is important to us in this family, and the children are heard talking among themselves about eating apples and growing big and strong.
“We grow something edible every year. You don’t even need a yard to do this. This year I found a strawberry Babylon bag. You fill it with dirt, put you’re plants in and hang it up. Last year we experimented with squash, the year before that we did different kinds of tomatoes. This has not only educated the kids on agriculture, but it has made them appreciate the goodness of fresh foods.
“We explain the process of food to the children. For example, steak comes from cows. They are curious about where we get our food from. We have taught them that potato chips and sweets are not considered food, they are snacks, or treats. We don’t eat them for meals. And we have a dessert night scheduled each week. Usually our desserts are made from fresh ingredients. By getting them involved in cooking the foods, you get them excited about eating the foods. They are very observant, and even if you don’t think they could understand something because they are little, you would be surprised at the information they absorb!
“The third teaching tool is simply society! Look around at the stores, billboards and advertisement papers. There is an abundance of teaching tools to assist and back up what you teach your children about healthy foods! My kids often notice these things before I do and point them out.
“As most are aware of, healthy eating begins at home. As a parent you need to be willing to eat different foods with them. They may crunch their noses up the first few times you try to give them a vegetable, but odds are they will give in when they see how much you are enjoying you’re healthy diet!”