How to raise healthy kids
A lot goes into raising healthy, happy kids. You must consider their physical health, social development, mental health, and well-being.
And it isn’t always easy to know the “right” way to raise your kids. So many opinions and advice from doctors, psychologists, nutritionists, and other experts often contradict one another. It can be challenging to decide who to listen to.
The good news is that if you care enough to be reading about how to raise your kids, you’re already doing a great job! Loving and caring for your kids is the first step.
But if you are looking for actionable steps to help raise healthy kids who will become healthy adults, you’re in the right place!
Teach them how to make healthy food choices
Feeding your children a balanced diet full of fruit, vegetables, protein, and whole grains is a wonderful way to start fostering healthy food habits. But if you want to prepare them for when they need to make these choices independently, start teaching them how to make healthy food choices.
Take the time to show them how to read food labels; go through the Canada Food Guide together and answer any questions they may have; and have them help you build a meal so they can understand how to put together a balanced plate.
When it comes to talking about food, try to use neutral language. Food isn’t “good” or “bad.” It’s just fuel, and different foods give our bodies different things. Neutral language helps to eliminate negative associations around food and eating.
Instill healthy sleep hygiene early
Every age and stage comes with different sleep requirements, so you need to know how much sleep your child needs:
- 0-3 months: 14 to 17 hours, including naps
- 4-11 months: 12 to 16 hours, including naps
- 1-2 years: 11 to 14 hours, including naps
- 3-4 years: 10 to 13 hours, which may include a nap
- 5-13 years: 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night
- 14-17 years: 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night
Not only should your kids get enough sleep, but it should also be good-quality, uninterrupted sleep. There are many ways you can help your child get quality sleep—set a consistent bedtime and wake time, limit screen time in the evenings, keep the room dark at night, and create a relaxing bedtime routine.
A relaxing bedtime routine will be different for every family and depends on the age of your children. Here are some things you can incorporate to create a routine that works for your family:
- Offer kids a nutritious snack or bottle/breastfeeding, depending on their age
- A before-bed bath can be very calming for some children
- It’s important to brush your teeth and go to the bathroom
- You can spend time reading a book together
- Lullaby or sing a song together
- Depending on the age and stage of your children, you can incorporate a massage, cuddling, and rocking
- If they are older, bedtime is a great time to spend a few minutes talking about their day
Share the importance of being active
The positive effects of physical activity on health for people of all ages are well-known. But there are so many other benefits of getting active as a family—it helps improve familial relationships, gets kids social, and works on their confidence.
There are many great ways to share the benefits of physical activity with your children, but one of the best is to get active with them! Go on bike rides, take walks through your neighborhood, have a dance party, or go for a swim at your local pool. When you can get active with your kids—and prioritize your own solo active time—it shows them just how important it is.
Much like sleep, every age and stage has different physical activity requirements. Let’s take a look at how much exercise your kids should be getting:
- 0-11 months: 30 minutes of tummy + being physically active several times in a variety of ways
- 1-2 years: 180 minutes of being physically active at any intensity, including energetic play throughout the day
- 3-4 years: 180 minutes of being physically active with 60 minutes of energetic play
- 5-17 years: 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity
Looking for fun family activities to help you get active as a family? Read our fifteen fun family fitness activities to get you moving together!
Keep an eye on screen time
Screen time is a minefield for parents—there is a lot of guilt associated with screen time, especially if you exceed the recommended amount. There are suggestions on how much screen time is appropriate for children of each age group, but as a parent, it is essential to remember that screen time can be a tool in your parenting toolbox. And some days, a little extra screen time is not the end of the world—try to leave the guilt behind you!
So, how much screen time does the CSEP recommend for Canadian children?
- 0-23 months: Screen time is not recommended
- 2-4 years: No more than 1 hour of screen time per day
- 5-17 years: No more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time
Teaching your children about the importance of physical activity and eating a balanced diet is extremely important in helping them grow into healthy, happy adults. When you help them create healthy habits as kids, they are more likely to bring them into adulthood. So, start sharing your passion for health and wellness with your kids now—they’ll thank you for it!
Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.