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Healthy Habits for Kids

Healthy habits to prepare kids to go back to school

September 6, 2023

As you prepare your kids to go back to school this fall, it is time to start reinforcing health habits in your child's daily routine.

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As the lazy days of summer start to wind down, many families start to gear up for the school year ahead. While summer break is full of fun and freedom, it's also important to think about how to help our kids shift smoothly back into the school-day routines. Building healthy habits for kids during this time isn't just a way to boost success in the classroom; it's also a key step for maintaining overall health.

Healthy habits for kids may include activities that promote physical and mental health, including practicing good hygiene and keeping a bedtime routine. Creating and sticking to healthy habits early on may help kids succeed in the new school year and for years to come.

Create Balanced Meal Plans

Planning and providing balanced meals can ensure kids get the right nutrients for their growth and overall health. When creating meal plans for your kids, you may want to keep in mind the macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) found in a variety of foods. A balanced meal plan for kids may include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and dairy products. You might also encourage your child to consume fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Remember to limit your child's calories from added sugars; focus on natural sugars found in fruit and milk instead.

Follow a Regular Bedtime Routine

The health and growth of children depend on getting adequate sleep. A consistent bedtime routine might include setting a specific bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends. Certain activities, such as taking a bath, brushing teeth and putting on pajamas, can help a child wind down and relax before bed. Reading bedtime stories may also help prepare children for sleep and promote a closer bond between parents and their children. In this day and age, limiting screen time is another part of creating a healthy bedtime routine. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping all screens out of children's bedrooms and turning them off at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Limiting screen time may help reduce sleep disturbances and promote a more restful night.

Plan Physical Activities

Encouraging children to get moving and be active can help promote overall health and well-being. The goal should be about 60 minutes of physical activity every day, with a blend of casual, spontaneous play and more structured sports or exercise. You might introduce exercises that build muscle strength, like climbing or doing monkey bars, and activities that strengthen bones, like running and jumping, a minimum of three times a week. You may want to think about what your child enjoys and try to match activities to their interests. For younger children, fun activities might include swimming, bike riding or even dancing. For older children, let them have a say in the type of activities or sports they want to do. If they have a hand in choosing, they're more likely to stay engaged and committed.

Establish Good Hygiene

At a young age, children should learn the importance of regular hand-washing, especially before eating and after using the bathroom. Adding hand sanitizer to their daily routine may also help prevent germs from spreading. You can introduce them to personal hygiene, which includes various self-care practices.

Another key part of healthy habits for kids is dental health. Children should brush their teeth at least two times a day and regularly use dental floss to avoid tooth decay and gum problems. Kids should also get into the habit of taking baths or showers regularly, including washing their hair and taking care of their skin.

Practice Mindfulness for Mental Health

Mindfulness in children can lead to benefits like better focus, attention, self-control and kindness. In addition, mindfulness may boost school performance and lower stress, anxiety and rowdy behavior. Help kids recognize and identify their own emotions and teach them mindful breathing techniques. That way, they can learn to handle their emotional experiences in a healthier way.

A fun way to introduce mindfulness to kids is through engaging games and activities. Simple exercises, like balancing on one foot, may help children develop a greater awareness of their bodies and better concentration. Another tactic is mindful eating during meals, which involves using all five senses to fully experience a food's taste, texture and smell.

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