4 Pillars to Good Health for Children

healthy kidsHealthy kids is what every parent wants.  But sometimes hectic lifestyles make sticking to the basics hard to do.  My word of the month is – Health so I thought I’d write an article on the lessons I’ll be teaching the kids.  My approach to teaching overall Health is a balance between 4 key pieces – enough sleep, nutritious food choices, exercise, and water.

Sleep

The amount of sleep we need depends on our age.  Kids between ages 6-11 need on average 9-11 hours each night.  My own kids are great sleepers but I have friends who say their little ones go down late and get up early.  Prioritize and enforce bed times to make sure your child gets their rest.  Sleep allows little brains to refresh, muscles to recover from hard play, and immune systems to work overtime to fight off illness.

Nutritious Food Choices

Healthy food choices are really hard make these days.  Kids are bombarded with junk food, candy, sodas, and fried foods.  And it’s really important to build healthy habits early on that hopefully will stick with you child for life.  I recommend the following to my students and families

  •  Make a list of your kids’ favorite fruits and veggies…and add a fruit or veggie to every meal.
  •  Eat home 90% of the time so you can control food to prepare and preparation.
  • No soda…drink water or 100% fruit juices mixed with 2/3 water.
  • Make desert a treat at a few meals per week…not a daily expectation.
  • Snack choices can be healthy…read the labels and know what your kids are munching on.

Exercise

Kids often get as little as 20 minutes of recess each day.  Add in another 1x week physical education class and you can see that there is not enough structured physical activity for our kids.  I think everyone (adults included) should get enough strenuous exercise each day to break a sweat for at least 20 minutes.  More is better!

But how can you encourage a kid who prefers to sit in front of an iPad or Xbox for hours on end?  The key is to make activity FUN.  Maybe your child is not interested in team sports.  I suggest finding what they enjoy.  Try martial arts, hip hop dancing, yoga, after school running clubs, adventure/ropes obstacle courses, rock climbing, hiking, or riding his/her bike.  And of course make sure they know how to play active games with other kids like capture the flag,  freeze tag, knock-out (basketball), etc.   If you have a few options that are popular you can suggest them in case they complain, “….dad, there’s nothing to do!  Can’t I play my ipad?”

Ah…since I brought up the iPad I thought I’d share my family’s plan to limit time on electronic gadgets.  We will use a day where the kids come home on the bus (no after school activities).  They can unwind and spend 30-40 minutes however they choose which is often the iPad.  Then they have to get physical activity outside (weather permitting) or inside exercise.  After that they are supposed to tackle homework and studying.  Dinner follows.  And after dinner they can use their iPads or Xbox again for the total amount of time they spent outside + homework before bedtime.

Water

We all need to be hydrated to feel and perform at our best.  The following are guidelines for kids.  5 glasses (1 litre) for 5 to 8 year olds. 7 glasses (1.5 litres) for 9 to12 year olds. 8 to 10 glasses (2 litres) for 13+ years. You should drink more water when you’re exercising or on a hot day.  Add 1 cup for every 30 minutes.

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