Every Kid Healthy Week – Teaching Kids Healthy Habits

Mother and daughters eating healthy

 

Proper nutrition, regular healthcare including immunizations and physical activity and exercise are important healthy habits that all contribute to enjoying a high quality, long life. Developing healthy habits in youngsters paves the way for them to become healthy, resilient, and thriving adults.

Mounting evidence shows healthy habits during childhood set the foundation for optimal adult health:  healthy kids are more likely to become healthy adults. Ensuring all children achieve and enjoy the best health possible is an important investment for kids’ future successes as well as the communities in which they live, especially important now due to the everchanging challenges associated with the pandemic.

However, statistics reflecting children’s health in the U.S. indicate:

  • 12 to 19% of kids have chronic health conditions
  • 15% of kids and adolescents ages 6 to 19 years are overweight
  • 1 in 10 children have significant mental health conditions that result in some form of impairment. About 15 million children have a mental, emotional, or behavioral health condition.
  • Approximately 1 in 7 kids live with food insecurity.
  • 33% of all kids or 1 out of 3 kids get daily physical activity.

Every Kid Healthy Week (Monday, April 26 through Friday, April 30) stresses the awareness and importance of instilling healthy habits during childhood so positive behaviors become solidly ingrained within kids as they reach adulthood and begin raising families of their own. Each day spotlights great ways to improve kids’ health and wellness.

Your Capital Women’s Care team would like to share some enjoyable family activities you can do with your kids to celebrate Every Kid Healthy Week and promote their health and well-being to better prepare them to learn and thrive, so they may enjoy a healthy, long and fulfilling life.

Getting Started

Fostering healthy behaviors, staying active, and eating nutritious meals and snacks at home are all vital components to optimize your child’s growth and development. Practicing healthy behaviors in the home:

  • helps build resilience and the ability to better manage stressors.
  • helps prevent disease and boosts the immune system.
  • and reinforces school lessons and helps create a 360-degree healthy environment.

Mindful Monday – focuses on social and emotional health. Research indicates mentally healthy children tend to be happier, show greater motivation to learn, have a more positive attitude toward school, more eagerly participate in class activities, plus demonstrate higher academic performance than less mentally healthy peers (Hyson 2004; Kostelnik et al. 2015).

To nurture your child’s social and emotional health, try some of these activities:

  • Journaling – offers a private place for expressing feelings or reflection. Let your child create and decorate their own journal. You can also offer a daily prompt to get thoughts flowing.
  • Breathing exercises – Deep and thoughtful breathing exercises help calm the nervous system and can act as a “reset” in times of unrest.
  • Explore feelings through art and color – these are great tools for relaxed self-expression. Set up an area with art supplies within easy reach. Take time to create together, whether drawing or painting.
  • Use movement to express emotion - dancing, walking, jumping, playing, or doing yoga offer ways of exploring feelings, whether for themselves or others.
  • Talk about feelings and set intentions with your kids. Understanding their dreams and goals and talking about how they can start the process keeps them engaged and challenged as they grow.
  • Learn basic mindfulness techniques together. These techniques teach your child self- awareness, resiliency, and coping skills, all important tools they will turn to time and again throughout life.

Tasty Tuesday – spotlights nutrition and food access. Proper nutrition through a varied diet of healthy foods is all-important fuel that’s proven to optimize both physical and cognitive growth.

Healthy nutrition improves aerobic and muscular fitness plus bone health and maintains and establishes a firm foundation toward having a healthy weight.

To build healthy eating habits, you and your family can:

  • plan meals and grocery shop together.
  • start your day with a nutritious breakfast.
  • designate cooking a meal together as a family.
  • try new foods each week. Let kids take turns choosing which to try.
  • have easy to grab fresh fruit and cut veggies at the ready for healthy snack alternatives.
  • grow your own veggies and/or fruit at home either in pots or an outdoor garden.
  • can boost your family’s fruit and veggie intake. Be creative by adding them to:

wraps -- boost turkey-and-cheese by adding extras like baby spinach, red pepper, cucumber, avocado, tomato, shredded carrots, and sprouts.

pizza -- top whole-grain crust or dough with any combination of mushrooms, peppers, onion, fennel, zucchini, tomatoes, Brussels sprout leaves (trust us, it works), arugula, spinach, and fresh herbs. Create a pizza bar of options for DIY pizza night.

quesadillas or bean burritos -- stuff with corn, peppers, tomatoes, onions, avocado, spinach, or cilantro and serve with salsa.

soups and stews -- gazpacho, minestrone and chili are all easy to upgrade! Throw in whatever extra veggies and beans work best with your recipes.

pasta –- be creative! Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, peppers, snow peas, mushrooms, onions, leeks, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, pumpkin, zucchini, spinach, kale, escarole, herbs—and, of course, tomatoes—are all perfect partners for whole-grain noodles. If you’re willing to mess with your recipe, carrots, zucchini, and onion make nutritious additions to pasta sauce.

smoothies –- Go beyond the usual fruits. Try adding carrots, beets, cucumber, ginger, avocado, spinach, or kale to your smoothies and have your kids guess the mystery ingredient.

salad bar -- set out small bowls of broccoli, shredded carrots, diced cucumbers, raisins, cherry tomatoes, and other ingredients for kids to create their own leafy masterpiece at mealtime.

Wellness Wednesday -- features self-care strategies. Self-care is proven to reduce stress levels and enhance feelings of relaxation, calm and well-being. It helps promote abilities to regroup and focus to accomplish tasks and goals and boosts overall personal happiness.

Healthy self-care strategies for kids can begin by establishing regular schedules, specifically for meals, snacks, and bedtime, and incorporating rituals that provide stability, sense of routine and structure within your family’s daily life.

Allow your child to choose and pursue one or two activities they really enjoy doing, whether it’s scouting, dance lessons or BMX riding with the local club. Overloaded days filled with constant activity minus downtime isn’t healthy for anyone, let alone kids.

Time allocated for completing homework and making it priority teach kids time management and how to prioritize responsibilities.

Ideas for self-care strategies:

  • Explore a hobby with your child. If they like making boat models, explore the neighborhood hobby shop and find a kit you could build together.
  • Take an exercise class together. Enjoy a virtual or in-person yoga class with your teenager.
  • Have fun with a painting or drawing class at your local museum or community college.
  • Take a Parent and Child focused class on something you both enjoy doing – photography, sewing, quilting, and scrapbooking are just a few ideas.
  • Establish soothing evening rituals like reading a storybook before bath time to incite feelings of calm and relaxation. Make sitting down for dinner with your family a priority. Older kids benefit from catching up with family members during conversation at the dinner table and are more apt to let parents in on daily happenings within their lives.
  • Plan family activities like going to the zoo, local park, a favorite restaurant, or bike riding around the neighborhood to promote family togetherness.

Thoughtful Thursday – focuses on connectedness, relationship skills and social awareness. Connectedness is an important protective factor for kids that can reduce likelihood of a variety of health risk behaviors. Connectedness involves a sense of being cared for, supported, and belonging, and can be centered on feeling connected to school, family (i.e. parents and caregivers), or other important people and organizations within kids’ lives. These connections play a valuable role throughout a child’s life as they grow into adulthood, helping them establish sense of community and know their role within it, develop meaningful and trustworthy relationships with others and achieve social awareness.

Studies indicate kids who grow up helping others develop empathy and gain a sense of self-satisfaction, meaningfulness, and happiness.

Some ideas that foster empathy, kindness, and willingness to help others include:

  • running errands for neighbors or grandparents.
  • helping to make a family food donation to your local food pantry.
  • donate gently used toys or clothing they no longer play with or wear to charity.
  • volunteer their time to a community fundraiser such as a car wash or flower sale to help a local charity or cause.
  • helping to make a homemade meal for an elderly neighbor who can’t get out of the house.
  • making cheerful cards for veterans or residents within nursing homes.
  • participating in their school field day to show spirit and pride.
  • calling or Zoom meeting with grandparents to keep in touch and ask how they are doing.
  • performing a daily random act of kindness without expectation of reward or acknowledgment for someone.

Fitness Friday – highlights physical activity and active play. Physical activity helps kids strengthen growing muscles and bones while helping to maintain a healthy weight.

Some activities to try:

Your Capital Women’s Care team is here for you and your family should you have any questions about incorporating lifelong healthy nutrition and fitness habits into your family’s lives.

Sources:

https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/get-involved/every-kid-healthy-week/
https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/healthy-activities-to-do-at-home/
https://www.modernwellnessguide.com/childhood-wellness/why-we-should-inv...
https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/parents-for-healthy-kids/
https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/nutrition-toolkit/
https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/game-on-activity-library/
https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/resources-for-schools/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92210/  
https://www.tuftsmedicarepreferred.org/healthy-living/expert-knowledge/i...
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776771/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/n...
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/C...
https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/nutrition/facts.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/index.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/index.html
https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/data/index.html
https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/index.html

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