Dealing with the Challenges of Raising Healthy Kids

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Raising healthy kids in today’s environment can be tough.  Many factors have changed over the years that make it all too easy for our kids to be lethargic, overweight and just plain lazy.  There are ways to combat the different elements that are attacking kids’ health today.  Here are some common problems and suggestions for how to deal with them:

raising healthy kids
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikebaird

Problem:  Electronics are taking over children’s play.  Kids today have access to hundreds of programs and movies anytime with cable television.  Twenty or thirty years ago, you could only watch cartoons on Saturday, the television stations went off around midnight and the afternoons were filled with soap operas that no self-respecting kid would ever admit to watching. Our parents insisted on us spending lots of time outside playing. Today’s parents are (perhaps unneccesarily) overly concerned about their children’s safety, so they stay indoors.

Solution:  Limit “screen time” - electronic activities to only one or two hours each day, even less for toddlers and preschoolers.  This would include computer, television and video games.  Taking away their electronic toys could force them out of doors.  At the very least it will encourage them to pick up a book and read. 

Problem:  Food portions continue to get bigger (and so do the children).  When you go to a restaurant today you will get a meal that is enough for two or three people.  That doesn’t even get into the “all you can eat buffet” idea.  Kids are being taught to eat and eat and eat and it is beginning to show around their waistlines.

Solution:  Eat at home more often and when you eat out, share portions.  Teach the kids that it is okay to leave food on their plates and that stopping when satisfied is perfectly okay.  Remind them that it is natural (and desirable) that they get hungry every few hours (to the point that their stomach growls). 

Problem:  There are too many activities swarming around the lives of our kids that they don’t have time to rest.  School starts early, after school activities run late and then there is homework to be done when they kids finally get home.  Kids are getting less and less sleep because of more and more going on.

Solution:  Slow things down.  Make sure the kids have a chance to sleep completely (usually between 10 and 12 hours for younger kids up to 10 years old).  Either cut out their after school activities or talk to the teachers and school board about the amount of homework they are bringing home every night. Allow plenty of unstructured time for the kids to daydream, invent their own games, or get bored.

Problem:  Everything comes at a touch of a button for kids today.  They don’t even have to get up off the couch to change the channels on the television or answer the telephone.  Even the “physical activities” are getting easier for them with inventions like “heelys” making walking a thing of the past for some kids.

Solution:  Get up and get moving as a family.  Go out for a real walk together (through the woods where gadgets can’t help) or play a family game of badminton or volleyball.  If you can get active as a family then the whole family will be healthier for the effort.

It can be tough keeping yourself healthy in this high-tech, fast-paced, fast-food society.  Helping kids choose healthy lifestyles requires some creative thinking and often the consistent use of the word no.