The easy part about being a parent is knowing what we want for our kids….. things like happiness, health, and fulfillment (however we define that). The tough part is figuring out how to help our children reach those goals. Life isn’t always an easy path and it is certain that our kids will experience highs and lows in all those areas throughout their lifespan. However, there are researched activities that can give children to a better chance at greater health, happiness, and fulfillment…. so check out these healthy habits for happy kids!
Healthy Habits for Super Kids #1- Be Active
The human body is designed to move and in fact, your body needs to move in order to retain its functionality. Moving gives your body more energy, improves mood, regulates sleep patterns, improves digestion, improves attention and concentration, and improves overall general health.
Get your child involved in 60 minutes of movement each day (the time can be split up into smaller increments) in activities that get your child’s breathing rate and heart rate increased. Try fun things like running, swimming, biking riding, jumping in a bouncy house, doing monkey bars, playing sports, etc.. There activities yield very beneficial results like increasing oxygen in the blood, improving blood flow and circulation, eliminating toxins in the body with sweat and digestion, and releasing endorphins that regulate sleep and improve mood
Healthy Habits of Happy Kids #2- Eat real, healthy, unprocessed foods
How can you expect your child to feel right or behave appropriately if you aren’t feeding him nutrients to keep his system running properly? There is so much extra “junk” in our food that isn’t meant to be in our bodies and its affecting us in so many ways from cancer to behavioral problems.
Knowing what is healthy to feed your child can be confusing and labels can be very misleading. As a general rule, anything that comes out of a box or bag and can sit on a self for months without spoiling, with a long list of ingredients isn’t going to be healthy for you and can actually cause more behavioral and sensory issues.
So keep it simple and just buy real foods! Plus, organic foods are the best bet when trying to keep toxins out and healthy nutrients in.
There’s even extra “junk” in many health and hygiene products that children use on a daily basis that contain additives and food dyes which are equally bad for their developing systems. Check out this list of children’s products that contain artificial dyes which are marketed specially for children.
Healthy Habits for Happy Kids #3- Get enough sleep!
Sleep is one of the most essential yet oftentimes overlooked pieces to the sensory and behavioral puzzle. Kids who have difficulty with sleeping well, often have higher disease rates, increased stress, diminished cognitive function, decreased self-regulation strategies, and a weakened immune system.
While children are asleep, they produce: growth hormones, serotonin (responsible for mood and behaviors), digestion chemistry (to aid with digestion and appetite), and stress chemistry (helping the body to deal with everyday stressors). Conversely, without sleep, children are missing out on developing these crucial elements needed for proper growth and development. Your child may struggle with getting a good night’s sleep, so here are some helpful suggestions:
- Be more active during the day- Getting exercise and activity in during the day helps to regulate circadian rhythms and promotes better sleep at night
- Get more sunshine during the day- Sunlight produces hormones that help regulate sleep/wake cycles
- Cut out sugary, caffeinated, and junk foods before bedtime
- Use a consistent sleep routine by including the following:
- Turn off TV and electronics at least an hour before bedtime
- Take a warm bath
- Give your child a deep pressure massage or towel rub down after their bath for calming input
- Read a book with your child to help with calming
- Keep your child’s room as dark as possible- light interferes with signals to the brain to get to sleep
Healthy Habits for Happy Kids #4- Your child needs love and support
As with all humans, children need love and emotional support to help them grow, learn, and properly develop. Show your love and support for your child by communicating with them about their problems and daily struggles, keeping in mind however that kids often communicate through behaviors rather than words.
So, look at what your child’s behaviors are telling you and use that as your cues for helping understand them. Also praise them for their accomplishments! Little milestones are a really big deal for your child, so celebrate them as such!
Also, remember the power of touch and hug your kids often. Touch lowers stress chemistry in the body and helps to improve mood and mental functioning. Studies have also found that pediatric massages help to increase growth and development, improve sleep patterns, improve attention, and decrease stress. Extra hugs and more “I love you’s” can go a long way!!
Healthy Habits for Happy Kids #5- Noteworthy Tidbits…..
- Drink LOTS of clean water (it may need to be filtered depending on your water source) each day to help with attention, mood, and concentration
- Set boundaries and routines with your child so they know what to expect which decreases anxiety and frustration
- Take time to laugh and play with your child to promote greater bonding and security for your child
- Make sure your child feels safe in their environment…. Untrustworthy caregivers or being in an unfit environment is not only dangerous but can lead to increased anxiety and greater behavioral problems
- Get fresh air each day, even if it means to bundle up and go outside for a short time on a cold day
- Eat meals together! Studies have found that families who eat meals together do better in school
- Be a positive role model– Your child is watching you and will pick up on the good (or bad) habits you have
Make the most of the precious time you have with your child and the positive influence you can make! Obviously these aren’t the only habits that lead to happy kids…. please tell us what works for you and your family in the comments below!
The Whole Child: S.A.N.E. Strategies for Success by Anne Buckley-Reen, OTR RYT & Debra Dickson, RPT
http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children- exercise requirements