Health is the best gift we can give to our children. Here are some practical tips on how you can inculcate healthy habits in your children that will last them a lifetime.
By Susan Philip
Every year, 7 April is celebrated as World Health Day to mark the foundation of the World Health Organization (WHO). It is a day to educate our children about why we must always focus on our health and of our loved ones. This April, let us teach our little ones healthy habits that will last them a lifetime, and lay the foundation for a fit and productive life.
Why it’s important: Hand washing is the simplest, cheapest and best way to prevent infection. This habit reduces the risk of getting or spreading diarrhoea and respiratory infections, responsible for millions of deaths of children across the world. Teach your child to use both soap and water every time she washes her hands.
How to teach: Keep a bottle of liquid soap where your child can reach it. Before and after every meal, gently prompt him to scrub his hands and wash them thoroughly. Do the same when he comes back from school or from the playground, and after he uses the toilet. Gradually, you won’t need to remind him to do it.
Why it’s important: Oral hygiene is very important for overall health. Cavities and other dental issues can be very painful. They can also cause infections in other parts of the body. Get your child into the habit of brushing her teeth twice a day – first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Also, prompt her to rinse out her mouth after every meal, and after eating sweets.
How to teach: Make brushing teeth a fun activity. There are various types of attractive toothbrushes available in the market. Let your child pick one in her favourite colour and shape.
Why it’s important: Littering is not only dirty, it’s also unhealthy, and contributes to the spread of diseases as it attracts all kinds of insects and pests.
How to teach:
Why it’s important: Regular sleeping and eating patterns established in childhood will help your little ones be disciplined throughout life.
How to teach: Right from the start, be firm about bedtime, mealtime and the time to get up. And, ensure that your child doesn’t skip any meal.
Why it’s important: While sharing toys, books and even food fosters friendships and builds compassion in your child, it is not wise to share everything all the time, because a lot of diseases are spread through contact. Teach her to differentiate between what can be shared and what can’t, and what’s the right way to go about it.
How to teach: Make a list of things that your child should not share with others, and repeat it often. It should include:
Why it’s important: Children quickly develop a taste for junk food, and can get addicted to it, leading to childhood obesity and a host of other health-related issues. Teach your child to identify health hazards while choosing her meals and always go for healthier options.
How to teach:
Explain the ill-effects of food additives, too much salt and sugar to your child. Make it a point to involve him in reading food labels at the supermarket. Guide him to make an informed choice.
Why it’s important: Most children get hooked to gadgets and are reluctant to spend time outdoors. It’s important for them to engage in outdoor activities as it will help them work up an appetite, develop muscles and stamina, and benefit from fresh air and sunshine.
How to teach:
Why it’s important: It’s very important to teach your child about maintaining personal hygiene in order to stay healthy.
How to teach: Talk to your child about the importance of washing his privates regularly and meticulously, and to use clean underwear daily. If your daughter is unable to maintain her hair by herself, consider keeping it short till the time she learns to take care of her hair on her own.
Why it’s important: Dirty toilets are breeding grounds for many diseases. See that the toilets in your house are clean always, and check with your child about the state of the toilets in his school. If he complains about them, take up the issue with the school authorities.
How to teach:
Why it’s important: A healthy mind in a healthy body is the ultimate way to stay fit. Positive thoughts are conducive to good health, while negative ones make the body weak.
How to teach:
In this fast-paced life, with technology and the Internet taking up most of our time, children of today are developing some bad habits that are affecting their health. Priya Kathpal, nutritionist, fitness expert and founder of Nutrify, shares her thoughts.
“Children today expect to be entertained while taking their meals. Screen time during meals is a very bad habit and parents need to keep an eye on it before it goes out of control. A family must sit together and have a conversation while they eat. This way, parents can learn how their children are doing at school and at home."
How it affects the child: “Since, the child is more engaged with the screen rather than the food, he doesn’t know when to stop eating. So, he just gobbles up the food, rather than enjoying his meal. Eating should be about the food you eat and determining how much you need to eat to be full. When children watch TV while eating, they tend to overeat or eat less, which could lead to digestion issues.”
“Since many children go very early to school, lots of parents think it’s okay if their child skips breakfast. If you make the child habituated to having a wholesome breakfast, no time is an odd time to enjoy your first meal of the day. Breakfast could happen at any time between 6:00 am and 10:00 am. I am not saying that your child should have a heavy meal at 6.30 in the morning, but you could give her a smoothie, or a milkshake, which are both wholesome meals on their own. Inculcating the habit of having breakfast every day is important.”
How it affects the child: “Skipping breakfast could affect a child in many ways and create a lot of health issues later in life, like weight gain, decreased stamina, lethargy, etc.”
You are your child’s first and best teacher. If you make it a point to model these healthy habits yourself, he will automatically pick them up. This will help him and you to lead healthy and well-balanced lives.
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