A few nights ago, my husband and I were in the kitchen making dinner while our kids were running around the house being ridiculous. After a few minutes of happy shrieks and laughter, my son came charging into the kitchen dripping sweat and breathing hard.
“I just ran ONE MILE! At least one mile. I definitely ran one mile. Were you downstairs before I started running?”
I could hardly keep up with his stream of consciousness. But one thing I picked up without a doubt was how proud he was that he ran through the entire house. No sooner did my son leave than my daughter appeared with her “phone” — which was really a video game cartridge with a picture on the front. Swiping through her “photos,” she says:
“Do you want to see my running pictures? This one is of the wild horses. This is a video of me running. This is a picture of my run. And this one something exploded but I’m not sure what it was.”
Of course my husband and I played along with both of them. How could we not? It was 100% adorable! But in those brief moments of innocent excitement from my kids, I realized how clearly they were emulating mine and my husband’s behavior. And, aside from the whole selfie/photo commentary, I was super proud. Their desire to be fit, physical, and healthy came from somewhere and I’m really thankful my husband and I are able to set that example for them.
What is that we do to encourage a healthy lifestyle with our children? We live it. We don’t just preach — we do it. There aren’t many rules in our house that we don’t follow ourselves. If we’re going to encourage our kids to be healthy kids — to choose healthy foods and be active and fit — you better believe we’re eating healthy foods and being active, too. Check out these eight simple ways you can encourage your children, nieces/nephews, or grandchildren to be fit and healthy kids:
8 Ways to Shape Fit and Healthy Kids
1. Choose healthy foods.
In its simplest form, being healthy starts with food. If your children see you choosing healthy foods over unhealthy foods, it will set them up for success for life.
2. Don’t food shame or withhold treats.
This goes hand in hand with the first point. Choosing healthy foods is best, but don’t food shame or make your kids feel bad for wanting something sweet to eat. We’re programmed to crave sugar, so it’s no wonder kids love treats. If you food shame or tell them candy and sweets are bad, it’ll backfire when they’re big enough to make their own food choices. Instead, remember this: everything in moderation. This applies to adults, too.
3. Encourage physical activity.
When I came home from my run the other day, I asked my family, “who wants to go do some burpees??” My daughter’s hand immediately shot up and she said, “I do!!!!”
I don’t force my kids into anything. If they don’t want to play soccer, I’m not going to make them play soccer. But I will encourage them to try new things — and once they start, I will do everything in my power not to let them quit until they give it a bona fide chance. My son plays baseball, but inevitably doesn’t want to go before the first practice. Once he plays, though, he likes it all over again. We encourage physical activity as much as possible. And you know what? My kids barely watch TV. We don’t even own an iPad. *gasp*
4. Opt outside.
Truly — get outside whenever possible. Yes, we all have down days where we’d rather sit inside on a comfy couch. I get that. But on the days when it’s nice and sunny, what are you doing indoors? Take the kids for a hike, go explore the backyard. Heck, just go for a walk down the road! Get outside and enjoy the fresh air.
5. Talk about your body in a positive way.
I honestly don’t even talk about my body in front of my kids. If I have anything negative to say about my body, I mumble it to my husband. But even then, I don’t really like to talk down about myself. It’s totally unproductive. But if you do have something to say about your body in front of your kids, talk about how amazing it is. How you’re so strong, or how you love how you feel when you eat healthy foods and run. Children hear a lot more than we give them credit. Trust me.
6. Let your kids work out with you.
When I asked my family who wanted to do burpees with me, I wasn’t kidding. My daughter and I went outside together and did some burpees along with mountain climbers and push-ups. While I completed my workout with lunges and squats, she made up her own “push-ups” until it was time to do burpees all over again. And I’ll tell you what — it was so fun having her do burpees with me. I love knowing I’m setting a great example for her.
7. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Scenario: I have a hard workout I need to complete but my kids come into the gym and interrupt me. They start playing with equipment or are otherwise making a lot of noise and breaking my concentration. Obviously I get mad. But that’s the last thing I want to do. I never want to discourage my kids from being physically active and wanting to hang out with me. Therefore, if I have a challenging workout I need to do on my own, I opt to do them when my kids are occupied and busy. Then the times I don’t have a serious or hard workout session planned, I invite them to join me and we have fun with it. I want them to realize being fit and healthy is fun!
8. Make it a family affair.
Healthy kids truly start with the parents. If your spouse/partner isn’t already fit and healthy, encourage him/her to start. Remind them that the kids are watching every move. After you have both parental units being active, you could encourage grandparents, too!
I know not all of you have kids, but I’m willing to bet if you don’t have your own, you probably have nieces and nephews, or even friends with children. And if you don’t have children, don’t have nieces/nephews, and none of your friends have kids — don’t worry, you can still set a good example for yourself.
Do you have kids? Nieces/nephews?
What’s one physical activity or hobby you do with your children?
Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday!