Help Kids HOP Into a Healthy Spring
It’s springtime, and no doubt your little bunnies are looking forward to warmer weather and spring break. Helping our kids establish healthy habits is hard enough today, but the pandemic has made it even more difficult for parents and caretakers alike. We hope these fun and simple tips can get your family HOPPING in the right direction.
Limit Screen Time
Two years in a global pandemic, complete with stay-at-home-mandates, online learning, and social distancing, has made it hard to be a kid. Globally, there has been a steep increase in device reliance amongst our youth, with some reports claiming up to seven hours of screen time a day.
Screens affect the dopamine center of the developing brain, often increasing anxiety, depression, and sleep issues. We recommend pushing back the time your kids have to turn off their screens by thirty minutes each day. Another option is a Screen-Free Saturday. Be sure to offer incentives, such as experiences or something they’ve been saving for, so kids see that putting the screens down has its rewards.
Focus on Quality Sleep
Kids today are busier than ever, and often at the cost of their sleep. With packed schedules and increased anxiety, about 25% of children have reported having sleep issues according to recent studies. Help your kids understand how vital good sleep is and lead by example by protecting the home environment at night. Lower the lights as bedtime nears, run a diffuser with lavender essential oils or a sleep blend to decrease anxiety, insist screens get turned off on time, and try reading as a family activity. Consider a melatonin or magnesium supplement for your kids to help them unwind and drift off to sleep. Talk to your doctor if you have questions.
It’s time to dust off the bikes and the basketballs and get the kids moving outside! This can be easier said than done, especially if your kids have gotten used to being more sedentary inside. Outside playtime before screen time is a great way to help your kids strike a healthy balance. Getting your kids involved with springtime yard clean up, recreational sports, planting a garden, kitchen dance parties, and even family walks or hikes are all great ways to get moving. In the end, make sure you are leading by example and going with them!
As spring settles in, fresh produce becomes more available and farmer’s markets open their doors once again. One easy way to get your kids eating more nutritionally-dense fresh produce is to prepare trays of fruits and vegetables—ones that you can pull out of the fridge when someone asks for (another) snack. Salads with grilled chicken and fruit, veggie frittatas, and grilled kabobs are easy ways to eat more produce during dinner time.
Mindfulness is taught in many schools across the country, and studies show that even the simplest practices can benefit children emotionally as well as in their education. Teaching kids simple breathing techniques helps them build social-emotional and executive functioning skills. The result is fewer classroom disruptions, better focus, and building better relationships because they can express anger and frustration without hurting themselves or others. Blowing bubbles or a pinwheel is a fun and easy way to teach kids how to control their breath. Gratitude is another mindfulness practice that is easy to implement with children. A family gratitude jar or having a thankful moment during bedtime is an excellent way to incorporate gratitude into your family’s day. Positive psychology research shows that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps us feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve our health, and build strong relationships.
Finally, as many families celebrate Easter this spring, try swapping out sugar and dye laden candies for fun and healthy alternatives. Fill eggs with stickers, temporary tattoos, or even money in place of candy. Try filling baskets with fun socks, fidget toys, bubbles, and books. In addition, many candy companies now make sugar-free candy using stevia, and the choices range from gummy bears and worms to chocolate bars.
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