5 Ways To Create Healthy Foundations For Little Ones
As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to take a few minutes to provide the support and encouragement we all crave as a momma raising kids.
Whether you’re a mom-to-be, new mom, or well-versed in raising kids, here are my best tips for creating a loving, healthy, and constructive environment for your kids.
1. Skip Sugary Cereals and Pastries – Here’s How to Provide Healthy Breakfast for Kids (That They’ll Still Love!)
Being a mom is hard work, so you need a morning routine that sets you up for success.
And so do your kids!
Choose healthy foods rich in quality protein and healthy fats. This helps support their growing bodies by starting their day full of sound sustenance.
A nutritious breakfast will help fuel their brains, bodies, and state of mind at the beginning of the day. This benefits you as the momma too! Your kids will be less prone to the energy crashes and emotional meltdowns many children struggle with throughout the day (often caused by high sugar intake and things like artificial food dyes).
Some kids’ cereals are advertised as healthy, but I have a secret for you… they’re not – at all… All too many of the foods marketed toward our kids are far from healthy. They can even potentially contribute to behavioral issues, recurring infections, skin conditions, and other concerns for a growing child.
Did you know that most popular kids’ cereals contain harmful and synthetic additives like:1
- Artificial food color
- Dangerous chemical preservatives like BHT
- Artificial flavors
The best thing you can do for your kids (and yourself): focus on whole foods and nutritious, easy recipes.
Ideas for Healthy Breakfast for Kids
Breakfast is a meal that many people limit to only a few food types. Look beyond typical “breakfast” food ideas and get creative when planning a healthy breakfast for kids! You may be surprised by just how much you enjoy the process. Food is fuel as long as it’s nutritious.
Here are some examples of easy, simple ideas for healthy breakfast that can fit perfectly into your busy morning:
- Leftover grass-fed steak with a side of avocado and blueberries
- Pasture-raised scrambled eggs with broccoli and apple slices
- Pancakes made with one banana and three eggs – mixed in a blender and then cooked in coconut oil (my kids can’t get enough of these!)
The best thing about these breakfasts? They're fast and don't take much time or effort – and they're a healthy, delicious alternative to sugary cereal.
Lastly, Pay Attention to How Your Child Reacts to Various Foods
Pay attention to how your child reacts to the foods they’re eating throughout the day, and adjust accordingly.
Aside from allergic reactions (which are often very obvious and don’t require much investigation to figure out), many kids have sensitivities to certain types of foods like gluten or dairy.
Reactions to these foods may be less obvious, but the side effects can still be detrimental. For many kids, avoiding certain foods will help them to feel their absolute best, get sick less often, clear up skin issues and promote mental/emotional well-being.
2. Make Outdoor Play a Daily Habit in Raising Kids
Studies show that the power of nature boosts your overall health. This applies to your little ones, too!
Kids need exposure to natural sunlight, fresh air, and the opportunity to move their bodies freely! Aim for at least 60 minutes of time outside every day.
If an hour feels like a big commitment, then decrease the time. Start with 30 minutes and work your way up, building a habit. Building habits takes time, but as it becomes a natural part of your routine, you’ll find you can start stacking habits for sustainable change.
Trust me on this one, your kids will thank you (okay, maybe not literally, but you’ll notice a change).
If you're too busy to visit the park or go for a walk, some time gardening with your little one will do. Gardening is a hands-on way to get your kiddos outside. Gardening has been shown to help children with confidence and patience and heighten their ability to focus.2 It's also a bonus for the picky-eaters because children are more prone to eat the vegetables they planted independently.
Ideas for Outdoor Play
- Family Walks – neighborhood or a park
- Bike Ride – or scooter, roller blades/skates, etc.
- Local Park Outing – playgrounds, social interaction
- Signing Up for Outdoor Sports – let them choose to encourage independence
- Nearby Hiking Trail – get them in tune with nature
- Pool – encourage exercise through fun play
- Neighborhood Splash Pad – a safer alternative to the pool but still lots of fun
- Gardening – teaches patience and appreciation for food
Studies Show the Importance of Outdoor Play for Kids + Their Happiness
Harvard studies show that being outside gives children time to not only exercise and soak up Vitamin D, but also gives them time to problem-solve, multitask, gain independence, practice taking risks, and socialize. 3
Psychologists have even coined the term nature-deficit disorder4 to describe children’s lack of connectedness to nature. Our environment desperately needs the next generation to care. It’s up to us to encourage a return to our ancestral history of embracing the outdoors.
Studies have shown children who play outside consistently have a decreased risk of childhood obesity,5feel connected to nature, and report higher levels of happiness.6
3. Have Your Child Draw or Write How They’re Feeling
The power of stillness helps young children slow down to process and release tensions. They need an outlet to de-stress – just like we do! Art is a creative outlet that engages the brain and emotions in a healthy release.
Expressing emotions doesn’t always come naturally to children – they have to learn how to do it in healthy, engaging ways. Sometimes a gentle prompt is all they need.
This can be a healthy, fun, and productive tool to express and process what's on their mind whenever they’re feeling a mix of emotions.
I do this with my 5-year-old regularly, and one time she filled up a few pages with sad crying faces. When I asked her what was making her sad, she told me that she really missed her preschool teacher (she is now in kindergarten).
Encouraging her to draw how she was feeling opened up the door for us to have a conversation and reminisce about her time in preschool. I let her know that it’s okay to be sad and miss people who mean a lot to us. She made a card for her old preschool teacher, and we visited her a few days later to deliver it and say hello. It was such a worthwhile experience!
This study7 on the analysis of children’s drawings sums it up perfectly:
“From their first attempts at a drawing, consisting of random marks and lines, to their first representational drawing, children are making efforts to communicate to the world around them and establish meaning through the images they create”
Your child’s artwork is sacred – it represents their perceptions of life, people, and experiences.8 As a momma, this is invaluable information in raising kids.
4. Keep Screens Out of Your Child’s Bedroom
We’ve all heard the sentiment that the most dangerous place for a child to be is in his/her room with a device. From child predation to cyberbullying, the risks are significant. Screens are better left entirely out of the bedroom.
Children mimic what they see – it's a natural human trait. Copying the world around them helps them learn how to socialize and behave. But since they don't have the knowledge we do, they won't always know right from wrong which can result in behavioral struggles.
As technology advances, it becomes increasingly difficult to limit screen time for kids. One of the healthiest foundations you can provide for your children is the understanding that the bedroom is for sleeping and relaxing, not watching tv or playing video games.
Aside from excessive screen time for kids, having televisions or screens in your little ones' room can also cause:
- Excessive exposure to dangerous EMFs
- Disruption of sleep patterns/habits
- Potential eye health issues caused by artificial blue lights
- The expectation of instant gratification
- Symptoms of irritability, bad habits, or laziness
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s critical to establish "screen-free zones" in the home.9
Studies show that excessive exposure to television9 can cause a variety of concerns for kids, including:
- Increased Violence
- Aggressive Behavior
- Distorted Sexual Images
- Body Image Problems
- Childhood Obesity
- Nutritional Problems
These studies speak loud and clear: Keep screens out of the bedroom. It’s an easy way to effectively limit screen time for kids.
5. Keep Your Child’s Bedroom Dark at Nighttime (They Don’t Have to Give up the Nightlight!)
Creating a safe, healthy sleeping environment for your children is critical to their development and mood throughout the day! Darkness is essential for healthy sleep – our body's internal sleep clocks are designed to be triggered by light.10 Too much light exposure (or light exposure at the wrong times) prevents your little one from getting the proper rest a growing child needs.
Our constant exposure to artificial blue light has caused a massive uptick in sleep disorders in adults and children.
Raising kids is hard work but it’s essential to teach them how special and inviting bedtime can be, so they look forward to it! Make it a cozy, relaxing environment and listen to their needs, but don’t give in when it comes to screentime for kids or blue light exposure.
If sleeping in a dark room is too much of a stretch for your little one, consider replacing the regular night light with a red light or low-brightness nightlight. This simple amber night light offers a gentle light that feels fun and relaxing for kids.
And remember, it’s all connected. Your nighttime routine with your children preps (and determines) your morning routine. So give your child the gift of deep, restful sleep. Then you and your kiddo can have the relaxed morning you desperately need!
The Best Foundation: Lead by Example
If I have one word of encouragement for you, momma, it’s this: Lead by example.
Our kids are watching us more than we realize. They emulate our behaviors (good and bad). The more we strive to lead healthy lives and make healthy decisions for ourselves, the more they’ll want to do the same.
It’s never too late to start making decisions that will impact your life (and your kids’ lives!) in a positive way. This can even look as simple as an at-home facial and inviting the kids to join in!
Let’s change the next generation’s outlook on health and wellness by setting healthy foundations. We mommas have an incredible job raising kids – one that is exhausting, exhilarating, and infinitely rewarding.
You can do it!
- The Social Benefits of Green Spaces
- 6 Reasons Children Need to Play Outside
- Connectedness to Nature: Its Impact on Sustainable Behaviors and Happiness in Children
- Combating Obesity in Head Start: Outdoor Play and Change in Children's Body Mass Index
- Connectedness to Nature Makes Children Happier
- The Analysis of Children's Drawings: Social, Emotional, Physical, and Psychological Aspects
- An Analysis of Characteristics of Children’s Growth through Practical Art
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