There’s more to your child’s health than just diet and exercise. It’s also important to cultivate a nurturing environment at home.
Model Good Behavior
Whether it’s speaking kindly, doing chores, or something as simple as daily hygiene, it’s important to model good behavior at home. Children often learn by watching what the people around them are doing.
We can’t protect our children from uncomfortable or stressful situations. However, we can prepare them to advocate for themselves and speak up regarding their needs.
Communication can be conducted in a variety of ways: sign language, body language, or written and spoken word. Find the best means of communicating with your child based on their developmental stage, and implement the following practices to enrich their skill set.
Start conversations with your child to get them comfortable responding to questions. If they’re too young to respond, simply describe what you’re doing together. Regularly ask your child about their day, or to tell you something that happened in a show or book you experienced together.
BE A GOOD LISTENER
Not only will you be modeling good conversation skills by listening to your child, but you’re also validating them. Sometimes it can be hard to refrain from offering advice or feedback when your child is talking with you about a problem. Before they dive into their story, ask beforehand if they want a listening ear, or if they also want input from you.
TEACH NON-VERBAL CUES
Some kids don’t pick up on body language cues, or nonverbal forms of communication. These skills can develop over time but may require some help from you. You can help your child be a better communicator by letting them know that when they won’t look at you during a conversation, you don’t feel heard. You can also practice getting on your child’s level when you talk to them so they don’t feel intimidated. Teach them there is more to communication than what we say or sign; we also communicate with how we stand, hold our arms, or move our eyes.
Even before children learn to speak or sign, they can learn language skills when you read to them. Reading not only helps children learn words, but behavior, perspective, and grammar as well. They won’t realize they’re being exposed to these lessons, but you’ll soon see the impact.
Another aspect of a healthy home life revolves around hygiene. Children as young as one year old love to mimic what their grownups are doing, so it’s never too early to model good personal and home hygiene habits.
LET THEM HELP
Letting little hands help with household chores may mean you have to do it twice, but it’s one of the best ways to teach children important life skills. Many kids learn by doing, so giving them a rag to wipe off counters or toys is a valuable teaching moment. Here are some age-appropriate chores you can assign to your kids to create a healthy home environment together:
- Put books and toys away
- Put dirty clothes in hampers
- Wipe up spills
- Set the table
- Feed pets
- Water plants
- Wash dishes
- Take out the trash
- Clean bathrooms
- Help wash/dry laundry
- Learn to cook with adults
- Mow the lawn
- Babysit siblings
- Wash the car
MAKE IT FUN
Not many kids want to brush their teeth, take a shower, or stop what they’re doing to wash their hands. If you can make it fun, such as with a song or a timer, kids are more inclined to pay attention to their hygiene. Dental health is important to a child’s overall well-being, so be sure you’re investing in good tooth brushing skills early. Start by doing routine hygiene for your child, and then graduate to doing it with them. For example, gently rub your baby’s gums with a soft-bristled brush or a washcloth as a precursor to letting them brush their own teeth as a toddler.
Here are some other suggestions for making hygiene more fun for kids:
- Take a bath with glow sticks
- Let kids pick out flavored toothpaste
- Purchase soaps with their favorite characters on them
- Set timers to see if they can beat their record showering time
Good hygiene can also give kids more confidence, which can improve their communication skills and help them put their best foot forward.
Nutrition & Exercise
Another important aspect of a healthy home is a balanced diet and opportunities to exercise. Be flexible when it comes to the type of movement your family engages in; not all kids like organized sports.
GET THEM INVOLVED
Kids are more likely to try new foods when they’ve involved in meal planning and preparation. Let your kids help you pick what the family will eat each week, and have them help you in the kitchen.
Additionally, eat together as often as possible. Being involved in meal time together is a good time to communicate with one another and learn more about what’s going on in each other’s lives. It’s also a way to lead by example, and show your kids how yummy new food can be.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Exercise doesn’t have to be a bore, so think outside the box if you have to when it comes to being active as a family. If your kids don’t like playing sports, let them explore other options for moving their bodies. Time spent in the pool is not only fun but a great form of exercise for all ages.
Ways to Stay Active
- Dog walking
- Ice skating
- Martial Arts
- Nature walks
- Yard work
REWARD WITH PRAISE
Often, we reward good behavior with a tasty treat. While that’s not always a bad thing, it’s important to avoid relying on food as a motivator for children. Instead, praise your kids in other ways, and reward them for their grades or good choices with a method that resonates with them. Some ways to show love for your children include:
- Words of affirmation
- Physical touch
- Quality time
- Acts of service
There’s no one way to raise happy, healthy children, so rely on your instincts to create an environment that promotes growth. You know your child best, so give yourself permission to find creative ways to build a healthy home life.