Embedding a healthy lifestyle should start at an early age, reducing negative effects on our health as we get older.
It’s much easier to stick to healthy habits when we’re introduced to them young – it becomes increasingly difficult to change these habits later on.
But it’s not just about habits; having a healthy lifestyle at a young age also improves development of the body and brain.
According to Seansi.org, “Having a healthy lifestyle at a young age aids in the development of your body as you grow older. One part of the body that receives the most growth is the brain. Physical activity gives you more energy, which makes your brain much more active.”
But as many parents will tell you, it’s not that easy encouraging your kids to be healthy. It takes a lot of effort, patience and positive reinforcement.
Teachers and educators also play a vital part in motivating students to be healthy as they spend a majority of their time at school.
If kids come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/MOeWQkKkc9
— Brian Aspinall (@mraspinall) April 18, 2019
Here’s some tips for educators and parents on how to get children to develop good habits early in life:
Be a role model
Parents and teachers alike can be role models for children. When they see adults eating healthily and exercising, it increases the likelihood of them modelling the behavior.
If you’re scoffing pizza every day but waxing lyrical about eating veg, chances are kids are not going to take you very seriously.
Find new ways to make healthy food more exciting
There are so many ways to encourage kids to eat healthy. For example, make fruit popsicles or smoothies to encourage them to eat more fruits and veggies.
You can also take them to the source to show them where food comes from – for example, a fruit orchard where they can pick their own berries or a farm to show them where milk comes from.
School gardens have also proved popular in encouraging kids to get hands-on learning in how food is grown, inspiring them to develop better eating habits.
Kids can 👇
🥕Eat healthy food
🌱Learn how to grow food
👭Learn team skills
🍎Develop healthier food choices
👩🌾Learn to value who has grown the food they eat
— FAO (@FAO) April 25, 2019
Also, involve them in grocery shopping and cooking so they learn more about how food is made and how important it is to have a healthy diet.
Use non-food rewards
Both teachers and parents may be tempted to offer lollipops and sweets as ‘rewards’, or take them to McDonalds as a ‘treat’.
But doing so actually reinforces negative eating habits, as kids start to associate unhealthy and sugary foods with positive feelings.
Instead of giving rewards for positive behavior in the form of food, offer other things like pencils and stickers or encourage fun activities and playing games that get them moving.
Make exercising fun
Kids are naturally active so take advantage of that! Instead of making exercise a chore, make it fun and tailored to their interests.
Everyone is different and finds different activities fun. While one child may love playing football, another may find it more fun to climb ropes, while someone else loves to potter about in the garden.
Let them choose what they like to do instead of forcing them to play sports they don’t like so they don’t easily get discouraged.
Mix it up by changing activities every week so the kids don’t get bored and lose interest in physical activity.
Bonus: take part in the activities, too! Parents can carve out time at the weekend to go hiking, run in the park, or kick a ball around. Teachers can also make playtime or P.E. fun and healthy by being actively involved.
Encourage walking wherever possible
If it’s feasible and the weather permits, show kids that you can take the stairs or walk to a particular destination.
Even when on holiday or during class trips, encourage more walking activities so they get used to it and learn early in life that walking is good for them.