You know that eating right and getting plenty of exercise is important for staying healthy. Your child, on the other hand, would probably jump for the candy and ice cream any time without care of the consequences. Teaching your little one about making healthy lifestyle choices from the beginning is a simple way to give her the tools she needs to choose nutritious foods and work out regularly when she gets older. Activities can make learning about her health enjoyable and entertaining for both of you.
Getting up and getting moving is more enjoyable for many kids when you head outside. Being in the great outdoors gives you plenty of opportunities to show your child how to make healthy exercise choices. Tell him that exercise burns calories and keeps his body healthy, but don't get too technical because a young child might lose interest if he doesn't understand what you're talking about. Take a bike ride or grab a bucket and walk around your neighborhood, hunting for sticks, rocks and pinecones. Hold a mini Olympics and have your child jump over small objects, jump as high as he can or run from one end of the yard to the other before the timer goes off. Tell him which muscles he's using with each activity, such as legs for jumping and arms for reaching.
The Food Groups
Give your child a simple tutorial of healthy versus unhealthy foods by showing her what the food groups are. Tell her that foods from these groups are healthy choices to make, so foods like soda and candy aren't, since they don't appear in any of the food groups. Challenge your little one to find healthy foods in a magazine, help her cut them out and glue to them a piece of paper to make a collage. Alternatively, head to the grocery store and hold up random items and have her guess whether they're healthy choices or not. Give her a simple explanation about why, such as the food has vitamins or it has too much sugar, so she starts to make the connections about what makes a food healthy or unhealthy.
In the Kitchen
Letting your young child help you cook by giving him age-appropriate tasks can increase the chance that he might try eating something new. Choose a simple recipe together and shop for the ingredients. Let your child help you wash fruits and vegetables, stir soup, toss a salad or put together a sandwich. Having a hand in the process gives you the chance to help him learn to make healthy food choices by watching your example. You can also let him choose which vegetable to serve with dinner or which fruit to slice for breakfast. Help your child measure out a serving of each food so he can begin to see how much food a person needs to stay healthy.
If your child is like most, she loves playing with your smartphone, tablet or laptop computer. While limiting her screen time is important, using these resources puts plenty of healthy learning opportunities right at your fingertips. Kaiser Permanente has several videos on YouTube.com that are educational for young kids, but instill healthy choices at the same time. The Nourish Interactive website features many games that teach kids about healthy eating in a fun way, including simple puzzles and sorting activities to engage young minds. When you're watching other programs, ask your child whether the food you see on the show or during commercials is healthy or ask her to point out any kids exercising or doing something healthy.
- Teaching Ideas: Keeping Healthy
- National Institutes of Health: Shape Your Family’s Habits
- Kids Health: Motivating Kids to be Active
- Nourish Interactive: How Our Games Teach Nutrition, the Food Pyramid, and Healthy Eating Habits
- Kaiser Permanente: Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Teaches Kids about Healthy Eating and Physical Activity
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