Encouraging Healthy Habits in Kids

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By Rebecca Barnes

It is winter — dark, cold, and a little dreary. Ironically, it is the new year and the time we are challenged
to build new habits. We KNOW we should exercise every day, and if we build good habits in our kids, they
will stand a better chance of being healthy their whole lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that kids get at least an hour of physical activity daily. This can include anything from informal, active play to organized sports.

Physical activity is important for kids because it helps them stay healthy and develop good habits for the
future. It can help kids maintain a healthy weight, have strong bones and muscles, and reduce their risk of
developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancer.

Kids who get regular exercise have better physical health, social skills, and cognitive function. Exercise also
helps kids maintain a healthy weight, reduces stress levels, and helps them sleep better. As a parent or caregiver, you can instill positive behaviors and attitudes in your child regarding physical activity.

Here are some ways to help build healthy habits early:

  • Start early and often. Youngsters love to be active and play. By encouraging safe, unstructured
    movement and play, you help create a strong foundation for an active lifestyle.
  • Be the example. Be positive and have an active lifestyle yourself.
  • Teamwork makes the dream work. Make physical activity part of your family’s daily routine by taking
    family walks or playing active games together.
  • Get the “right” clothes. No, we don’t mean the latest fashions. Clothes that allow movement and
    encourage physical activity. For outdoors, have the proper coats and hats or gloves to handle the
  • Change locations. Take them to places where they can be active, such as public parks, community
    baseball fields, or basketball courts.
  • Be a cheerleader. Celebrate the physical activities your child participates in, and encourage them to be interested in and try new ones.
  • Make it fun. Fun physical activities can be anything your child enjoys, either structured or non-structured. Activities can range from team or individual sports to recreational activities such as walking, running, skating, bicycling, swimming, playground activities, or free-time play.
  • Turn off the tube! Instead of watching television after dinner, encourage your child to find fun
    activities to do on their own or with friends and family, such as walking, playing chase, or riding
  • Or, turn it back on! There are a variety of great video games and shows that encourage exercise. Or
    put on a video and have a dance party!
  • Be safe! Always provide protective equipment such as helmets, wrist pads, or knee pads for activities
    such as riding bicycles, or scooters, skateboarding, roller skating, rock-wall climbing, and other activities where there may be a high risk of injuries. Also ensure that activities are appropriate for the age of your child.
  • Choose their toys wisely. Try to buy plenty of toys that encourage physical movement like balls,
    badminton sets, etc. If you don’t have other kids, try pogo sticks, jump ropes, and other toys they can use alone.

father dancing with children

There are many different ways for kids to be physically active. Some kids enjoy playing tag or climbing trees,
while others prefer playing sports or dancing. The important thing is that kids get up and get moving for at
least an hour each day.

Rebecca Barnes is the Publisher of Prince William Living. Reach her at rbarnes@princewilliamliving.com.


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