Most of the adults I know, myself included, spend a lot of time thinking about ways to improve our health. The most basic ways to achieve better health seem to come most naturally to children. Could it be that as we invest in their long term health of younger generations that we are actually improving our own health as well? I believe so.
With five children of my own and the opportunity to witness lots of kids connecting to farm life in new ways I’ve discovered that eating more fruits and vegetables improves our health, but there are other things that are just as important.
There are physical, mental, spiritual and social benefits for children taking time to get in touch with their creative side. The neural connections and pathways being formed so quickly during childhood are stimulated and encouraged in more effective ways when kids are encouraged to let their creative side run wild.
There are a lot of ways to nurture a child’s creativity. It could be with traditional “arts” like coloring or painting, but it could also be starting a kid business or solving a personal problem. A child’s self-esteem soars when they begin to recognize that they are capable of making something out of nothing.
Try this: Set aside time and space for your child to experiment with something entirely new to them. It could be a new art form like pottery or sharing a talent with a non-profit they are passionate about.
We are starting to learn more about the side effects of a busy, high-stress lifestyle and particularly what that does to the brains and behaviors of children. Many children hold their breath or take shallow breaths when they feel anxious. A simple tool that we’ve used is to teach our kids to stop, relax and breathe.
Find a few times during the day to encourage your kids to stop and take a few deep breaths. It slows down their heart rate, clears their mind and lowers stress levels. First thing in the morning, before meals, or as you are winding down before bed are good times to give this a try. Allowing our minds to rest for a while is a good thing as boredom can actually fuel creativity.
Try this: Start a daily ritual of practicing mindfulness as a family. This could come in the form of meditation, yoga, or an afternoon walk. Even 3 minutes of quiet time goes a long way towards a more restful spirit.
One of the ways that we encourage healthy eating in our home is with the never-ending fruit bowl. When my children were younger and hungry all the time I found that placing a big bowl of fruit in the center of our home helped encourage little fingers to grab something nutritious and filling instead of a sugary or salty snack. The same practice serves my older kids well as they need a “grab and go” snack between activities.
Want to get kids more interested in fresh food? Consider shopping at the farmers market, visit a local farm or grow your own garden. Learning where our food comes from is a great motivator to get kids to try new fruits and vegetables they haven’t tried before. Another great way to get kids interested in fresh food is to encourage them to prepare their own meals from time to time. Start with something simple like cooked eggs and cut up fruit. As kids get older they may begin to prepare some of the meals for the entire family.
Try this: Visit one of the Warren County Library’s seed library catalogs where you can check out up to 5 packets of seeds per day for free! The library also offers a large variety of books on gardening, farming, and food preparation for kids of all ages.
If given the choice most kids would probably spend time with an electronic device of some kind. That’s why it’s important to set aside time during the day to be intentionally active, and if possible, outdoors. Time spent outside in the sunshine is an important benefit to kids health. For younger kids, this usually is as simple as finding a spot outdoors to play. Older kids might benefit from more structured and organized activities.
Teaching kids to explore sets them up to be physically active for their entire lives. When kids are more physically active they develop strong muscles and bones, maintain a healthy weight, decrease their risk of type 2 diabetes, sleep better and have a more positive outlook on life. It’s an investment in their future that’s worth making.
Try this: The outdoor classroom and butterfly house at Lost River Cave is the perfect place for an afternoon adventure.
One of the basic needs we tend to overlook is good hydration. Staying well-hydrated benefits our digestion, skin, and an overall sense of well-being. Encourage your kids to start off their day with a tall glass of water. It’s a great way to get digestion going and ensure that no matter how busy the day gets that they’ve got a good start on their water intake. Divide your child’s body weight by 2 and encourage them to drink that many ounces of water per day.
Drinking is not the only way that water makes kids healthier. Whether listening to a gentle creek, exploring at a river, fishing at the lake, or watching the waves at the beach spending time near moving water has mental and physical benefits for kids. Being near water makes us generally happier while also encouraging us to get more physically active. Phil Moore Park, a 174-acre park located in Bowling Green features year-round access to swimming, fishing, kayaking and canoeing on Drakes Creek.
Try this: Purchase a special water cup or bottle for each person in your family and place it in a convenient place.
While there is no such thing as raising perfect kids we can build new routines that create sustainable changes over time. In our home, we like to wrap healthy lifestyle choices up with a whole lot of grace. Instead of using words that might embarrass kids about their current choices we like to come up with new routines that create sustainable changes over time. With our encouragement kids might even come up with their own solutions.