Photo Credit: Leme Photography
Teaching your child healthy habits early on in life is extremely important to set them up for success later on. What they choose to eat and what they do with their free time is ingrained from early age. It’s no secret that I am an advocate for women’s and children’s health. It’s fantastic when we can choose options that provide a healthy lifestyle for the whole family! I do my best to practice what I preach, and I’m constantly looking for new ways to help us all remain healthy and active. When you work on it together, it’s much easier to stick with it!
Leading a healthy lifestyle does not need to be difficult, but it does take some diligence in making wise choices on a daily basis. That does not mean “perfect” choices. It simply means making the best choices you can. Here are just a few things I do with my children, Rocco (5) and Sterling (2), that you can put into practice in your own life with your children.
Playtime > Screen Time
My daughter is too young for screen time, but my son does enjoy certain programs or LeapPad games. I do my best to instill a balance by making physical activity a priority each day. Whether it’s a structured class (I choose full-body activities at places that make listening, respect, and having a “can-do attitude” a priority) or playing at home, I like to get everybody moving. This means family walks and fun runs, playing tag in the yard, kicking, skipping, jumping, and tee ball. If we can’t go outside, we play “balloon ball” in the house trying to keep the balloon from touching the floor. Our puppy needs playtime too, so he typically joins in. Not everyone has hours of time to spend at the end of the day, however, we need to make physical activity a priority. Not only is it healthy, I guarantee your kids will be ready come bed time!
Try Out Sports Classes
Rocco has been in gymnastics for a few years now, and Sterling just started this year. While I know how beneficial gymnastics is at a young age for overall body awareness, strength, and agility; I also want to give my kids the ability of finding their own passion. Rocco has tried everything from swimming (a must in Florida) to karate, TaeKwonDo, golf, and tennis. He understands that activity is just part of life. Sports, whether individual or team, are great for children and teach more than just fitness. They learn teamwork, following directions, and body awareness. They gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. Just remember, they don’t have to be tremendously expensive. You can often find free starter classes so that your kids can explore a number of different activities without you shelling out big dollars every time their tastes change. From an early age, there are many different options like soccer, tee ball, swimming, dance, martial arts, and of course, my favorite, gymnastics! The most important thing is that they are introduced to activity in a fun and positive way.
We really enjoy taking Rudy, our sweet dog, on walks as a family, but even if you don’t have a dog, getting out and walking around your neighborhood is a great way to get your children moving. You might be surprised by the kinds of conversations that happen on walks that would not happen if you were at the house where everyone tends to enjoy their technology in separate spaces.
Do Something Active First Thing in the Morning
Even if its something little, like stretching or yoga, encourage your kids to get moving first thing in the morning. Rocco runs down stairs with the dog and they both stop on the landing for a morning stretch! You may not think your kids would get excited about exercising in the morning, but remember, for them it’s fun! Hold a jumping jack contest or see who can run the fastest in place. Getting the blood moving and the body going helps all of us to wake up a little faster and feel ready to face the day!
Put Your Kids to Work in the Yard or Garden
Having kids help with yard work is not only a great way to keep them active, but also a great way to teach them about working hard and taking pride in their work. They can rake leaves, pick weeds, water plants, and dig up some dirt if you are planting new plants. Having a garden that they work in with you will leave them feeling a sense of achievement when those plants bear fruit and vegetables. They may even try a few new ones!
Make an Activity Jar
Using note cards or Popsicle sticks, write down different fun activities to do as a family that will require them to be active. These can be things you do during the week like playing a special game of Frisbee in the yard, or weekend outings like going to a children’s museum or the zoo, playing mini golf or bowling, or going to the farmer’s market to get some healthy foods while walking around. The idea is to get them moving! So be creative and take any opportunity to let them choose what they would like to do for these activities. They can choose a specific activity or draw at random.
Take a Fitness Break During Television Commercials
We all like to have a little TV time. So when that is the activity of the hour, turn commercial breaks into a chance to get a little fitness and/or competition going. Do a silly dance, see who can do the most sit ups and push ups (or longest plank!), or do some jumping jacks. Make it fun and they won’t see it any other way.
Make Household Chores a Game
Cleaning up the house can be a bore, especially if you as a parent are doing all the work. Making a game of who can clean up their toys faster. They might not be perfect when the kids are done, but by the time they are about 2-3 years old, they should know generally where things go. So the kids will get moving and you will have an easier time finishing up the cleaning later on. This can also apply to things like vacuuming, sweeping, or mopping, depending on the age. Rocco likes to play with the vacuum, so I take that enthusiasm and let him go for it. Even if he doesn’t get everything, he can do a surprisingly good job for being 5 years old.
Wash the Car!
Why go to a car wash, when you can do it yourself with your kids! Put on your swimsuits and make it a game. Kids can put soap on the car using a sponge and use the hose to rinse it off. This will almost always turn into everyone getting soaking wet for us, but it is worth it because they are moving around, running around, and most importantly we are all having fun together!
Make Dinner Prep a Group Activity
Kids can help prepare dinner. I still do the cutting, but Rocco likes to stir in different ingredients and is always up for being the taste tester. At the same time he is also learning to measure out different ingredients. Even if your children aren’t quite at the age to really help cooking, they can do little things that do help, from sorting out vegetables, to wiping the counter, or washing fruits and vegetables in the sink. Give them little ways to help and they will enjoy the time spent with you and take pride in the finished product of dinner. They are also more likely to eat the foods if they were in charge of preparing them! Any chance for them to eat more vegetables? I’ll take it!
What ways do you try to squeeze in some extra activity or healthy habits? Anything unconventional that I should try, too? Share them in the comments!
About the Author
Shannon Miller is the most decorated American gymnast in history and is the only female athlete inducted into the U.S. Olympics Hall of Fame – twice! Her tally of five medals at the 1992 Olympics was the most won by a U.S. athlete. At the 1996 Games, she led the “Magnificent Seven” to the U.S. Women’s first ever Team Gold and captured Gold on the Balance Beam for the first time for any American gymnast.
Launching her company Shannon Miller Lifestyle: Health and Fitness for Women in 2010, Shannon is now a highly sought-after motivational speaker and advocate for the health and wellness of women and children. As an Olympian, wife, mother and cancer survivor, Shannon is dedicated to helping women make their health a priority. Her memoir It’s Not About Perfect: Competing For My Country and Fighting For My Life published April 21! Please visit www.shannonmiller.com for more info on her upcoming book and other projects.