By Kelli Mitchuson
1 out of 5 children in the United States is struggling with obesity, and unfortunately, that number keeps growing. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports, “The obesity epidemic has become a major threat to every child's ability to achieve their full potential as a healthy, productive adult.”
So how do we begin to tackle this problem? A great first step is to create solutions together as a family! Here are 5 ways to build a healthier, happier home.
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1. Make healthy eating fun
Involving your kids in making healthy choices can encourage them to incorporate healthy eating into their lives! One fun way to do this is to create a grocery store scavenger hunt.
You can categorize fruits, vegetables, proteins, and other food groups by color or with pictures of the items that the kids can go find. This is an interactive way for you and your children to talk about the benefits of eating healthy and discover new foods to try together.
2. Get up and get active together
As kids get older, their tastes and interests change. Not all children will continue to love organized sports, so it can be hard for kids to get the recommended hour of physical activity each day.
Instead of focusing only on your child's physical activity, get the whole family involved! Take a walk together or make a fun activity circuit in your house with jumps, sit-ups, and skipping.
In the YMCA’s Healthy Weight and Your Child and Fun Company after-school programs, we’ve seen families benefit from an evidence-based curriculum called CATCH. It engages both children and their parents to help prevent childhood obesity through healthy eating education and family games that encourage physical activity.
3. Limit screen time
We live in a world where our phones, tablets, and televisions are constantly grabbing our attention. For kids and adults, screen time can take away from healthy habits like exercising, mental breaks, and meditating in a quiet space. Leading by example is paramount to cutting down your kids' screen time and increasing family time.
Some easy ways to reduce screen time:
- Eating meals around the table as often as you can
- Setting up a family hour or game night to connect without your phones around
- Doing an after-school activity like walking the dog, going to the gym, or riding bikes together
- Getting involved in a volunteer opportunity in your community
4. Encourage mental and emotional well-being
While it’s important to implement healthy eating and daily exercise into a child’s life, it is equally important to build up their confidence and self-esteem. These qualities can help a child cope with stress and failure, become more independent, and be more willing to try new things.
Help build up your child’s confidence by giving them daily opportunities to make choices and tackle new challenges.
Here are some examples to encourage their growth:
- Letting them help you fix something around the house
- Planting and watering flowers together
- Teaching them to make a healthy sandwich for their lunchbox
- Having them pick out their own clothes
5. Set family goals
Have you ever tried to become healthier on your own? It's challenging without an accountability partner. As a family, it can be more effective to set healthy weekly, monthly, or semester goals for the entire family instead of setting them for one family member. Setting these goals together can help everyone implement a healthier lifestyle as well as communicate and collaborate better! Include goals to improve the physical, mental, and spiritual health of your family.