By Kristina Schnack Kotlus, Contributing Writer
Keeping your kids healthy is a constant battle. Many companies knowingly try to trick you into feeding your children junk, weakening your defenses with cute characters or pictures of fruit. Kids’ meals come with books about healthy habits, cookies have “no high fructose corn syrup” and those chips are organic, so they must be good for you. Labels can be confusing, options can be overwhelming and Pinterest wants you to make cupcakes for everything from the first day of school to Johnny Appleseed Day.
So how do you strike a balance? I know that for us, the past year has been a challenge. All the wonderful people who blessed our family while I was in treatment for my brain tumor brought tasty desserts, and my “no dessert on weeknights” rule was quickly replaced with a more Cookie Monster-friendly plan. Getting back into the swing of things has been tough for us, but it’s definitely do-able, and there’s no time like a new year to get your resolve back on track if you’ve been a little off. Tips that can help:
1. Set a goal about eating.
Whether you decide to limit sweets, drink more water or eat vegetarian one day a week, set a goal, not a rule, and work together as a family to stick to it. When it comes to rewards, try to alter your thinking, too. As a culture, we like to reward ourselves with ice cream or candy, but when it comes to making healthful eating choices, a park day, sticker chart or small toy are better rewards for meeting goals. I advocate making one change at a time in your diet rather than a sweeping overhaul of your pantry. When you’ve mastered your first goal, you can always add a new one.
2. Find fun exercise.
There are a ton of fun options for kids to get in their exercise. Whether you set up a family plan for fitness or you get involved in sports, there are some great options even in the winter. Check your child’s scout manuals for patches and pins related to fitness. They frequently have a plan already prepared. Here are other options:
- Yoga classes for families: Yoga is a calming and gentle way to get your exercise. Soaring Spirit Yoga Studio in Occoquan offers both toddler and family yoga. If their class times don’t work for you, there are lots of options on DVD and online. Your cable provider may even have On Demand versions available.
- Indoor winter sports: Ice skating classes are available at Prince William Ice Center and Haymarket IcePlex, and the open sessions are a great way to get moving. Swimming can also be a fun way to stay in shape all winter long. Even in January indoor rec center pools are heated to a balmy temperature, and the Prince William County Department of Parks and Recreation’s Chinn Aquatics and Fitness Center and Dale City Recreation Center both offer special family deals throughout the week. Check out “Family Fun Swim” at the centers on Sundays, when a family of four can swim for $15 at Chinn and $12 at Dale City, or try “Splash N Tot” on Wednesdays and Fridays for $4 per child, including two adults.
- Yearlong sports centers: Kid’s Choice Sports Center in Woodbridge, the Prince William County Department of Parks and Recreation, Sports Network and Fitness in Manassas and programs such as “Soccer Shots,” a national youth soccer program, are just a few of the local options for indoor sports during the winter months.
3. Pick active fun.
Whether you wait for a nice day and bundle up for a walk or head out to one of the local indoor bounce houses to get out some energy, replacing your family movie night on the sofa with something more active is a great way to be more healthy together.
Also check out Vertical Rock Indoor Climbing Center in Manassas. It features an indoor rock wall, and staff who will help you if you’ve never climbed before. Heights not your thing? Keep it closer to the ground, but still very awesome, at Urban Evolution, also in Manassas. This “functional fitness” facility offers classes in Parkour.
4. Be a great example.
Study after study suggests that healthy parents have healthy kids. Let your kids see you eating a salad every once in awhile, and prioritize some fitness time for yourself. Whether you join a Zumba class, or power walk each morning, let your children know that taking time to be healthy is important to you.
Have a happy, and healthy, 2014!
Kristina Schnack Kotlus is a local mother of three children and the owner of PWCMoms.com, a resource for parents and families in Prince William County. Visit her site or Facebook page for an events calendar, reviews and more ideas for fall fun.