14 Healthy Habits for Kids That You Can Help Them Develop
We all want our kids to grow up healthy and strong.
Eating the right foods, not becoming obese, and choosing healthy habits.
But, saying we want our children to be healthy, actually encouraging healthy habits for kids in this country, and making the outcomes reflect our efforts; isn’t what we would hope it is.
As of August 2018 18.5% of children between 2 and 19 years old are obese in the U.S.; that’s more than 13 million children!¹
Of course, there are different reasons (and excuses) for raising a child who becomes obese. It’s sometimes completely out our control; have it be a medical issue, or something else.
But, there are also habits that we can help our children develop, from the time they start eating and moving, that will help them stay healthy their entire lives!
(Grab free printable worksheets here, to encourage your kids to develop healthy habits!)
But, first, let’s go over what a healthy habit for kids is.
What is a healthy Habit?
A healthy habit is simply a behavior that will benefit someone physically or mentally.
A few examples, right off the bat, would be exercise, meditation, and eating the right foods.
But, let’s dig a little deeper, because I’m sure you already knew that exercise, meditation, and eating the right foods are healthy habits. And, telling a child to exercise, meditate, and eat the right foods isn’t going to help them very much when trying to have them develop healthy habits. It’s too vague and they may not even know how to do those things or what it means to practice those habits.
How is a child to know what they should be doing to be healthy when told vague things to do. All it’s going to do is frustrate them and make developing healthy habits something they associate with frustration.
So, let’s go over some healthy habits that you can help, or encourage, your child to start developing.
Remember not to have them start too many at once. Starting too many at once is a good way to overwhelm them and have them associate developing healthy habits with frustration. Start with one, guide them, help them, encourage them, and practice the habit yourself if you can.
Once they have one down, move on to another.
Start with the easiest habit for your child to do; to build up their confidence that they can build healthy habits and improve their life! It’ll make all the other habits a littler easier, too!
Healthy Habits for Kids: Nutrition
Focusing on good nutrition is the best thing you can do to help encourage your child to start creating healthy habits of their own.
Be sure to be a good example and eat what you want them to eat, or there’s no sense in encouraging this.
Mama always has the best food on their plate and kids know this; make sure it’s healthy, not just delicious!
Healthy Habit for Kids #1: Drink water
Water is vital for everyone to consume!
If your child is in grade school or middle school, they may have even learned in school that the human body consists of about 70% of the human body. (Roughly 55% – 75% depending on age.²)
This should be the first healthy habit your child should start, if they haven’t already. If you don’t regularly drink water; start NOW!
My girls started drinking water as soon as they could hold a sippy cup.
Water is the only drink your child needs.
Many people may argue that kids need milk growing up, as well. And, I agree that certain types of milk for kids can be very beneficial. But, there are other sources for children to get protein and calcium. I’m not saying to not let your kids have milk, my girls and I drink soy milk every day (it has just as much protein and calcium, but is void of cholesterol and has less sugar than cows milk). What I’m trying to say is that water should be the main, or go to, drink for your kids everyday.
You can help them create, and stick to, this habit by:
- only having water (and milk) available for your kids to drink
- don’t buy the sugary drinks like juice and soda
- let your kids have a special water bottle to take everywhere
- be a good example and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water
If you like teaching your children new and fun things in a way they can understand; teach them of the importance of water.
Use the Water Tracking sheet in this printable packet to help them keep track of their water intake and turn it into a fun game!
Healthy Habits for Kids #2: Focus on Fruits and Veggies
Everyone knows fruits and veggies are the best foods we can eat!
Your grew up being told to eat your veggies, or maybe you weren’t. But, you still know that they are an important part of our diet, and should be included (and possibly even the main part) of our diets!
Have them choose meals that have a veggie, or veggies, as the base. Such as salads, pasta with veggie sauce (like my vegan ziti), or anything else they can think of. Pinterest may help with this. (Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest here!)
So, help your kids get enough fruits and veggies in their diets a day. Or, at least 5-8 per day.
A few things you can do to help them eat more fruits and veggies are:
- make them smoothies
(Or teach them to make smoothies by themselves; my 6 year old only needs a little help getting the top on our nutri-ninja cup for making a smoothie, she does the rest herself!)
- turn it into a game: eat the rainbow
- make fresh juice (this is the juicer I have)
- make sure fruits and veggies are washed and ready to eat at all times
- teach your child to hide them in their own food
- add fruits to all and any baked goods (like muffins)
If your child is a picky eater, check out these tips from 25+ moms to help get your child to eat veggies.
Find Printable worksheets to encourage eating the rainbow in this printable packet!
Healthy Habit for Kids #3: Eat a Solid Breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
It’s the first thing our kids eat in the morning; it not only needs to replenish them from their nightly fast, but also fuel them for the morning ahead!
Our body needs nutrients, carbs, protein, and fat in the morning; all three macro-nutrients to keep us going all morning long. And, it’s the same for our kids.
Kids need a healthy breakfast; there have even been studies showing that kids who ate breakfast regularly had higher IQ’s. ³
So, let’s get our kids eating a healthy breakfast, whether it’s a school day or not!
Help your child stick with this healthy habit by:
- making a smoothie for (or with) breakfast
- make breakfasts ahead of time and freeze or keep in the fridge for the week (think pancakes with oat flours, or oatmeal)
- encourage the to have fruit/veggies as at least half f their breakfast
- eat breakfast with them in the morning
- have everything ready to go the night before
There are a lot of different things your child can have as a healthy breakfast. Variety is your friend when it comes to eating, breakfast included.
However, try to avoid just giving them cereal, toast, or a single serving of fruit for breakfast.
This should ideally be the largest meal of the day!
Healthy Habit for Kids #4: Eat Whole Local Foods (or Grow their own Food)
Eating as local as possible will help the local economy, help support farmers in the community, and the food will generally be healthier (or have less pesticides on them).
Kids may not understand this when young. But, as they grow older, you can talk to them about this and they may feel good about themselves for helping support those in their community.
Or, take this one step further and help them plant a garden of their own to eat from!
Many kids love growing their own food and to take on the extra responsibility. You may be surprised at how into it they are once you start!
Help them with this habit by:
- taking them to the local farmers market
- check out localharvest.org to see if there are any farmers markets, co-ops, farms, or more in your area to eat more locally to support your community
- dedicate a small section of your yard for a small veggie garden
- have your kids help you grow berry bushes and fruit trees
- buy potted plants with produce (especially if you are renting your home or don’t have a yard to grow food in
- take your child to community garden to volunteer (if there is one in your area)
- take your child to pick apples, berries, or other produce (check the link above for places in your area)
Helping children understand the process from seed to plate, and take on some of the responsibility of their food, can go a long way with creating life time healthy habits!
Healthy Habit for Kids #5: Limit Processed and Fast Food
So far you have learned what to help your child do to start their healthy habits. But, helping your child overcome bad eating habits is just as important.
Hopefully, with all the new healthy eating habits your child will start picking up, it’ll start pushing out the bad eating habits; such as eating processed foods.
By processed foods, in general, we’re talking about foods that come in boxes, bags, cans, or something else; foods that have many ingredients, some of which we don’t even know what they are.
Along with limiting, or avoiding, processed foods, kids should also limit or avoid fast food, as well.
Sure, these two types of foods are convenient and can make life easier when you have a busy life. But, in the long run, these are the foods that are going to contribute to disease and chronic health issues later in life.
You can help your child avoid these types of foods by:
- meal prepping over the weekend to have healthy food easily available all week long
- stop buying highly processed foods
- read labels and ingredient lists on foods before buying
- tell your child what each ingredient in a food is (even the chemicals, like BHT or MSG)
- stop eating out (by using the first tip in this list)
- teach your child how to make home cooked meals (and learn how to, if you don’t know)
Doing these things will help your child eat better now, and eat better after they leave home.
Set your child up for success by teaching them how to cook by themselves. My six year old is already pretty handy in the kitchen and is always asking to help with more. Hopefully, your children can get to the point where they are like that, as well.
Kids usually enjoy helping in the kitchen; it helps them feel included, important, and builds up their confidence!
Healthy Habit for Kids #6: Don’t Overeat
One habit that many people tend to have as adults is overeating.
This causes weight gain, along with other issues and health concerns that come along with that.
We all know that overeating isn’t good for us, but have a hard time stopping because it’s simply what we’re used to.
Help your child avoid overeating and turning overeating into a habit by:
- setting guidelines for where it’s appropriate to eat (ex. can eat at kitchen table, not in bedroom)
- keep serving dishes in the kitchen, or off the table
- show your child how much one serving is
- teach your child to eat until they are 80% full, then wait 20 minutes to see if they are still hungry or not
- lead by example
- don’t starve them (we, including our kids, have a built in system to tell us when we’re full; let that tell your child when to stop eating, not you)
The human body is amazing, in that it signals to our brain when full to helps us from overeating.
The trick is telling whether our child is still hungry, or just wants the next sweet thing that’s available to eat. Do the apple test with your child if this is an issue; if they’re not hungry enough to eat an apple (or another fruit or veggie) then they’re not truly hungry.
Healthy Habits for Kids: Physical Fitness
It’s said that nutrition is 70% of being healthy and physical fitness is 30% (although, that doesn’t take into consideration mental health).
Whatever you believe, you know that developing habits to help with physical fitness is important to your childs health now, and in the future.
Start encouraging the healthy habits below!
Healthy Habit for Kids #7: Walk When and Where You Can
If you live in town this habit will be easier for you and your child to start.
Even if they don’t get any other exercise during the day; walking everywhere they can will do wonders for their health, and help them improve their health.
Ways you can help:
- walk, instead of drive, places
- park as far away from the store as you can
- go for a daily walk down the street (especially if you don’t live in town and are unable to walk places)
It doesn’t matter where you walk to, just encourage your child to walk more, and walk with them. Be a good example. Use this time to talk to them about their day, or just to find out what’s on their mind. Bonus if you turn this walking time into bonding time, too!
Healthy Habit for Kids #8: Exercise Everyday
Whether your child takes a walk with you everyday, such as walking to school if close enough, or needs another way to get some exercise in their day; be sure to make this happen as often as possible.
A good rule of thumb to know when your child has had sufficient exercise in a day is to find out if they sweat at all that day from exercise. It may sound gross, but that’ll help you determine if the intensity, or length, of exercise if enough to get their blood pumping and heart rate up.
If your child didn’t sweat from exercising, then the exercise they did wasn’t enough for the day.
Now, the intensity and length of exercise a child will need may different from other children and that’s all right. And, of course, if they want to exercise longer, or push themselves, in general, that’s a really good thing!
It’s alright if your child is done exercising after doing 25 jumping jacks, or running around your house one or two times. The more often they do this, the more used to it their body will get, and the more they’ll be able to do.
(Use this rule of thumb for your own exercise, too)
You can help them with this habit by:
- exercising with them
- asking them if they can do a little more each day, or each week
- helping your child write down what they did each day for exercise
- having your child set fitness goals (ex. be able to do 25 push ups by the end of the month)
- encourage them to go outside
- have them create their own work out routine (or you create a simple workout routine for them, or buy a workout video/watch youtube workout videos)
- play music at home (dancing is great exercise)
Your child may even end up thanking you for helping them create this healthy habit when young.
Exercising can help reduce money mental health issues, and help anyone, in general, simply feel good overall. Along with keeping unwanted weight off, staying fit, increasing confidence, and much more!
Healthy Habit for Kids #9: Stretch in the Morning and/or Before Bed
Do you stretch when you wake up or go to bed?
Do you have any idea how amazing it feels to add stretching into your regular routines?
Stretching not only reduces back pain and helps you and your child become more flexible, it can also reduce stress and improve posture!
I know you want you want the best for your kids, so help them remember to stretch everyday by:
- setting an alarm once or twice a day as a reminder to stretch
- adding stretching into their night time routine
- stretch with them
- use youtube to learn to stretch right (in case you haven’t done it in awhile either)
Even stretching once a day can have many benefits. Help them add it into their daily routine to help them feel better and reduce stress, such as right before they climb into bed for the night.
Some school classrooms may even help your child develop this habit by having a regular mini yoga class in the classroom. My 6 year old came home after the first week of school so excited because she got to do yoga at school, and loved it!
Healthy Habit for Kids #10: Get Plenty of Sleep
Children need a lot of sleep, whether our kids think they do or not! (I know my girls don’t think they need any more sleep then I do, but they do; their behavior on some days proves it.)
This habit will be harder to help with the older our kids get, so start as young as possible and set a bedtime. In general, kids need anywhere from 8-11 hours of sleep every night. So, if your child wakes up at 6 every morning to eat a healthy breakfast and get ready for school; set their bedtime at 7 the night before.
Even if your child doesn’t fall asleep right away at bedtime, it’ll give them enough buffer time to still get the amount of sleep needed. And, as you probably know, getting enough sleep will help with your childs mood, memory, and more!
Some ways you can help with this healthy habit:
- set, and stick to, an early bedtime
- limit screen time through out the day
- turn all screens off at least 2 hours before bedtime
- have a relaxing bedtime routine (such as a bath, brush teeth, stretch, read a story, then sleep)
- keep the volume down after bedtime (such as keeping the volume to your show down, or not doing any cleaning, baking, or cooking that tends to be loud)
Most adults in this country are sleep deprived, so do yourself a favor, and be a good example for your child, and make sure you get plenty of sleep, too!
Healthy Habits for Kids: Mental Health
I know, some people don’t really think mental health matters to someones overall health, but that’s only because they don’t understand it.
Going to school for 4 years focusing on child psychology, neuropsychology, and then obsessing about health and eating well; I can tell you just how important (and related) mental health is to our overall health! But, that’s a lesson for another time. Let’s go over healthy habits for kids mental health, so they can achieve their dreams, become confident, healthy, and happy adults!
Healthy Habit for Kids #11: Practice Affirmations (with Help if Little)
Don’t dismiss affirmations for your child. There are plenty of people who do not believe in the power of affirmations.
Again, many people who don’t believe positive affirmations work, are those who simply don’t understand how they work, or those who have never tried them.
However, they do work and will do wonders to help your child be healthy, happy, and become confident in what they can do.
This is probably one of the easiest healthy habits that you can help with. You can do so by:
- saying the affirmations to your child (basically, tell them how wonderful, confident, smart, capable, etc. they are)
- write out affirmations for your child to say to themselves (if they can read)
- add this to their morning routine
- print out positive affirmations from this child’s “My Healthy Habits” workbook and post them where your child will see them in the morning
Don’t underestimate the power of practicing positive affirmations to help your child enjoy their life and love themselves more. It really works and will help keep them happy go lucky, or improve their outlook on life.
How can someone have a negative outlook on life when they’re telling themselves positive things each and every morning first thing when they wake up?
Healthy Habit for Kids #12: Meditate (or Sit in Silence)
By sitting in silence, I do NOT mean encouraging your child to sit silently in front of a screen watching a show or playing video games.
This healthy habit for kids is about shutting out stimulants and introducing peace to the mind and body.
It can be use to decrease stress and anxiety, increase focus and concentration, and improve the outlook on life.
However, just as other healthy mental habits are misunderstood, so is meditation.
How you can help your child meditate (or sit in silence):
- teach them how (you can quickly learn how here)
- have them listen to a guided meditation on youtube (if you really don’t get it, or need more help getting them started)
- respect the time they choose to meditate by keeping the rest of your home quiet
- mediate at the same time they do (possibly in a separate room to avoid distracting each other)
Starting the habit of meditation may not seem like the most exciting habit, but it is one of the most beneficial!
Don’t feel bad if you and your child struggle with meditating at first, it can be hard to get a hang of. Start with 5 or so minutes and increase the time spent meditating by then. If your child can only sit still and meditate for 5 minutes, that’s better than nothing at all. Increase it by 10 or 15 seconds a time if need be.
Healthy Habit for Kids #13: Read (or be Read to)
You know reading to children from the time they are little is beneficial.
Whether it’s to help them learn to talk, learn the meaning of words, or learn how to read for the first time; reading is a wonderful habit to encourage.
Later in life, they will use skill to read to get through, and possibly excel at, school and every other aspect of their life. The more they read the more they learn, and the ability to learn is one of the best skills anyone can have and hone in on!
A few ways you can encourage this habit:
- read to them from day one, if possible
- read to them every night before bed
- have them read to you, or to themselves, once they are able to
- keep books in all rooms of the home, and in the car (unless they get car sick when they read in the car)
- set a dedicated reading time in your home, when everyone reads (doesn’t that just sound nice!)
There are many ways you can encourage your child to read, and with access to thousands of books on ipads and tablets through amazon’s kindleunlimited, there’s no reason not to read. If your child doesn’t have a tablet, ipad, or you’re trying to limit all of their screen time, find your local library and make a weekly trip to get new books for them to read.
There’s just something so nice about opening up and reading an actual physical book!
Healthy Habit for Kids #14: Write (or Draw)
Along side helping you child develop reading as a habit, developing writing, or even drawing, as a habit is just as important.
Children can start drawing as soon as they figure out how to hold a crayon. It may take some time for them to develop their abilities and try to communicate their emotions through their pictures. But, drawing is one of the first ways that a child can express themselves in an appropriate manner to let us know how they truly feel.
Such as, when they start going to school for the first time and they start drawing a picture of themselves sad, and then the next picture they draw a few days later is of them at school and they’re happy. And, they ask you how to spell certain words, like “I” “love” “school”.
Children can have a difficult time expressing how they feel in an appropriate way; helping them develop the habit of drawing, and then later writing, how they feel is amazing for their mental health. It allows their negativity to come out of them, not harming others or throwing a tantrum, and allows them to more easily show appreciation for others. (My daughters teacher has a whole book of drawings, just from my daughter.)
A few ways you can help your child develop this habit:
- make sure there is always paper and something to write with available to your child
- encourage them to go color if they say they’re bored
- draw with them (don’t get annoyed if they ask you to draw a heart or star 50 times in the same sitting)
- spell out words for them when asked to help teach them to spell
- teach them how to draw letters, even if not in school yet (dot to dots work really well!)
- have them write out their feelings and what their grateful for (a gratitude journal) once they are old enough
Writing and drawing isn’t only a great way for our children to express their emotions, it’s great for us to do as well. Especially when it comes to living a more positive life. If you don’t have a gratitude journal, why not start one alongside your child and remind each other to write in it every morning!
Remember, One at a Time
Alright, that may have been a lot of information, a lot for you to think about, and a lot for you and your child to implement to start (or continue) your healthy journeys together.
But, I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed. So, remember to choose just ONE to start with and not move onto developing another habit til both of you are ready.
Let’s review the 14 healthy habits for kids:
- Drink water
- Focus on Fruits and Veggies
- Eat a Solid Breakfast
- Eat Whole Local Foods (or Grow their own Food)
- Limit Processed and Fast Food
- Don’t Overeat
- Walk When and Where You Can
- Exercise Everyday
- Stretch in the Morning and/or Before Bed
- Get Plenty of Sleep
- Practice Affirmations (with Help if Little)
- Meditate (or Sit in Silence)
- Read (or be Read to)
- Write (or Draw)
There a limitless ways you can help your children develop these healthy habits for kids.
But, one of the best things you can do for you child is to be the best example you can for your child.
Do what you want them to do.
Talk how you want them to.
Eat what you want them to eat.
Feel how you want them to feel.
Because, believe it or not, your children will take after you, even if slightly, and even if they don’t want to admit it.
Don’t forget to save this on Pinterest to refer to later, and share on Facebook for all of your friends who want to raise healthy kids to see.
(Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest.)
You can make a difference in this world, we can make a difference in this world, by raising a healthier future generation. Spread this around!