They’re easy, we swear.
When my daughter was in Year 1, she had to draw a picture showing something her mum could do.
“My mum can stand,” she wrote proudly underneath a drawing of me standing still.
It was embarrassing, but not surprising, because I freely admit I wasn’t very active when my daughter was little. We spent a lot of time sitting around reading books, because that’s something I’ve always liked doing.
But as my daughter got older, and was joined by her little brother, I realised that I had to make an effort to go outside and play more often for my kids’ sake, even though I’m not a naturally sporty person.
And now, because I made that effort to be more active with the kids when they were young, they’ve grown up knowing that physical activity is just as important as reading and writing.
It’s made me think about how much we, as parents, influence our kids’ lives, and how important it is to get them active and eating well when they’re young.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Have a snack box in the fridge your kids can choose from.
Fill it full of good things that nutritionists recommend, like fruit, unsalted nuts, cheese slices, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, etc. If kids are hungry and they can’t find any chips or biscuits, they’re likely to eat what’s in there.
2. Do a fun, outdoorsy thing as a family every weekend.
Make it something you plan together. Explore nearby parks or national parks. Go bike riding (plenty of places hire out bikes, if you don’t have them). Check out adventure playgrounds (there are great new ones being built all the time). Join in fundraising walks, and you can always work your way up to a fun run.
3. Try to build a walk into your routine.
Whether it’s the school, the shop or the park, make sure you’re walking somewhere on a regular basis. If your kids are little, make walks more interesting by pointing out things like lizards and birds’ nests along the way. Take the opportunity to chat to your neighbours as you walk by.
4. Encourage your kids into different after-school activities.
Do a bit of research to come up with something that they’ll feel so passionate about that they’ll never have to be pushed into going. Think martial arts, gymnastics, hip-hop, cycling, skateboarding etc. It can also be a great way for your children to make new friends.
5. Grow your own vegies.
Whether you’ve got a big backyard or a small balcony, you can start a vegetable garden. Not only does it get kids active, it makes them more interested in vegetables. After putting effort into looking after a tomato bush, there’s a very good chance they’ll at least want to try the tomatoes.
6. Make water your family’s favourite drink.
Always offer your kids water with meals, and make sure they see you drinking water when you’re thirsty. Eating whole fruit and drinking water is much better for kids than drinking fruit juice.
7. Come up with rewards that aren’t junk food.
Whether it’s for toilet training or trying hard at school, we all like to give our kids rewards from time to time. Just try to make it something like a trip to the playground rather than chocolate or lollies. That way, your children won’t grow up thinking that rewards involve eating junk food.
8. Make the backyard a fun place to be.
If you’re lucky enough to have a yard, buy things that will encourage your kids to use it. They don’t have to be expensive: try a clamshell-style sandpit or paddling pool, a cheap cricket set, or even some chalk for hopscotch. As your children get older, you might want to put in a basketball hoop.
9. Let your kids feel involved with meals.
Give them choices when it comes to dinner – like, what vegetables to put in the stir fry – and let them help out with the cooking as much as possible. They’ll be more interested in what they’re eating and they’ll learn about food preparation, too.
Sign up on ACT Health’s Good Habits for Life website to get a tailored program for your family.
ACT Health run a range of programs to support you and your children to set good habits, such as Fresh Tastes: healthy food at school and Ride or Walk to School. Check out these programs here.
What do you believe it’s important to teach children?
Here are some amazing female role models for the kids:
Good Habits for Life is an initiative from ACT Health to help families take some simple steps to a healthier lifestyle.
When you encourage your kids to eat well, move more and love life, you’re not just benefiting their health right now – you’re teaching them good habits that will keep them healthy and happy throughout their lives.
To sign up and create your family’s personalised program to help your family enjoy a healthier lifestyle visit the Good Habits for Life website.