As a mom you’re handing down your habits to your kids. Whether you like it or not, all the good and all the bad habits your kids are more than watching, they are learning and internalizing. When I wrote One Year Fit I realized this and wrote it not only for the moms out there, but for the families that need the moms to live as an example and pass down healthy habits.
So which habits are the most important? I can’t tell you what is most important for your kids. It all depends on their personality and needs and your family goals, but I can tell you what I’ve found as the basics. These are habits for you to build on, with the hope of passing them down to your kids.
Put your phone down
Yup, I went there first. I’m super guilty of this, so realize as I write this, it’s also something I am actively working on. I assume this is one of the toughest habits to introduce to our kids because everything we do as parents: work, read, cook, communicate is all done on electronics. You need to practice the habit of signing off and putting your phones down in front of your kids.
To be clear, I’m not telling you to make a habit of telling your kids to limit their time on electronics, I am telling you to make a habit of being aware of how often your kids are watching you stare at a computer, Ipad, or phone. Make a conscious choice to pull out a recipe book vs. using your Ipad. Rent a book at the library vs. reading your kindle and when your kids want to play a game with your or ask you a questions, but your dang phone down.
Make exercise fun and movement part of your everyday
Give your kids the gift of movement and habit of getting outside whenever possible. Nature is the best therapy and the best habit you can pass on is playing outside whenever possible.
Your kids are spending a majority of their time in a classroom sitting down. If they do sports then maybe they are outside for practice a few times a week, but when they aren’t inside learning or in a structured sport practice, the joy of exploring and appreciating nature in all its glory is what every kid needs more of in their life. They will learn to love watching the sun set and finding new hikes that take them to incredible vistas. Anxiety and depression in kids is growing and getting them moving outside is a scientifically proven way to relieve stress and lower blood pressure, helping them cope with what life throws at them.
In addition to the physical health benefits, you are giving them stories to tell. When the weekend’s over and they go back to school they can share their adventures and have something to be proud of among their peers.
Cook with your kids and don’t keep processed food in the house
If you are responsible for grocery shopping then you are responsible for the food you keep in your house. You take out the choice of what to eat at snack time by only keeping healthy options in the pantry. My favorite are fresh fruits, vegetables and hummus, smoothies, nuts.
You’re not depriving your kids by choosing to buy snack food for them. At first your kids might complain when you make this switch, because they enjoy their old habits of snacking. I encourage you to talk to them about the nutrients in their food and how the food reacts in their body. I love how Kids Eat in Color explains it: Orange foods help you see in the dark. Yellow foods help you heal cuts. Green foods help you fight off sickness. Red foods give you a strong heart. Maybe if we as adults started thinking about food in terms of how it adds nutrients and positively affects our bodies, we would be healthier instead of gauging a food by its calorie count
Finally, cook with your kids as often as possible. Invite them to help out in the kitchen. Give them the opportunity to plan a meal and work with them on foods they like and also making it as colorful as possible. By making a habit of cooking with your kids you are giving them a curiosity about the ingredients that go into food and a pride in preparing food for the family. Kids are more likely to taste new foods if they have ownership in the preparation process.
Warning: Cooking with kids takes double the time and is way messier than cooking by yourself. I can attest to the fact that the more you do it the easier it gets and more efficient your kids are at helping you prepare. Start small with simple acts of helping you cut vegetables for your meal and stir ingredients together, and work up to them helping you cook a full meal.
We have the following kid cooking gear that our kids love:
Kids cooking knives and board – These knives are sharp enough to cut through most things and give me a peace of mind that they aren’t going to cut a finger off with them.
Kid cut resistant gloves – If your kids want them to get started with sharper knives I would pick up a pair of these so you don’t have to worry while they cut.
Kid’s cooking utensils – My kids love having “their own” cooking utensils and I love having an organized self contained spot to keep them.
Kids cook book – I feel that most kids cooking ends up being baking and I made a point to en courage my kids to do more than cook desserts. We recently picked up this America’s Test Kitchen cookbook for kids and love that it has a large variety of foods to eat.
Drinking water, not soda
Your kids need to see you drinking water, not soda. They don’t need to see you drinking out of a fast food cup, or sweet tea, or la croix from a can, they need to see you drink plain water or hot tea.
Instead of focusing on why juice and soda aren’t nutritious, focus on why water helps your body function well. Explain to them water helps digest our food and keeps our body moving nutrients to all the most important places. In my kids terms: water helps them poop regularly so all that food won’t get stuck inside of them. My kids give me bonus points anytime I use the word poop in a sentence so I know they are listening :).
Water helps hydrate our skin and will detox the impurities out. Try only drinking water while you’re at home and encourage them to drink it as often as possible. Make any drink other than water a special treat when you are out so it’s not a regular habit at home.
- Get your kids their own special water bottle so they are excited to fill it up and drink out of it.
- Set goals to drink 1 water bottle before lunch and 1 after. My kids are competitive so anytime I give them a challenge they usually rise to it.
Show Gratitude Daily
Gratitude is one of the healthiest and easiest habits anyone, kids and adults alike, can practice. Studies have shown that gratitude is linked to happiness in kids and one we need to teach them at a young age. We started with our kids when they were 2-3 discussing at dinner one thing we were grateful for, or what made us happy that day. After naming it we would go further to talk about why and how it made us happy and what we can do to make others feel that same way.
Teach your children to not only say thank you, but to feel thanks. Make a habit of noticing things around you when you go on walks, or on a drive to the grocery store and naming what they have to be grateful for. One positive emotion will begin to reframe how they think and snowball into more regular positive emotions.
Instead of saying “I have to go to school”, have them reword and say “I get to go to school”, and discuss the benefits they have to be grateful for as to why they are lucky to go to a good school with an involved teacher.
The simple act of practicing positive thinking will help decrease stress and anxiety that your child might be feeling and will also help you retrain your brain to look at the opportunity and express gratitude when presented with challenges.
None of these habits will be put into motion for your kids if you don’t write anything down and make a plan. Pick one from my list above and go write it down right now…. I’ll wait.
OK, now write down a specific plan about how you are going to execute that habit. There needs to be a time and place and schedule written down. Don’t wait until tomorrow, start today.