Whether you hide zucchini in chocolate muffins, or install blackout curtains to make sure kids get the right amount of sleep, parents are always on the lookout for ways to incorporate healthy habits into their kids’ lives. After facing a global pandemic for the last five months, it’s more important than ever for parents to focus on ways to make our kids healthier. While taking a probiotic is a great idea – as well as eating a healthy, balanced diet with fresh food, getting plenty of exercise and prioritizing sleep – there are many ways you can boost your family’s health. Here’s a primer on things you might already know are good for you – and the ‘why’ behind them. 

1. Stick to a routine

Healthy habits - stick to a routine

Research shows that kids who take part in family routines thrive socially and emotionally. A study done of over 8,000 preschoolers found that those who ate dinner together, told stories and had that family time were better adjusted socially – social emotional health lets children express their feelings, and have healthy relationships with adults. An added benefit: kids who are socially and emotionally healthy, and have set routines, do better in school

TO-DO LIST: Have dinner together, set firm bed times, and plan “theme nights” where kids pick the meal or activity.

2. Move everyday

Healthy habits - move everyday

Whether it’s running in the park, swimming or going for bike rides, look for ways to get your heart rate up. As a guideline, children need sixty minutes of daily physical activity. You don’t have to do drills, but they can be fun… jumping jacks and planks make great challenges and walking has many of the same benefits as running. The “COVID-19” – the sneaky pounds everyone jokes they have put on – can shift easily if the family commits to moving. For kids, walks can be a time to talk, to look at flowers and birds and be in nature. Children need to develop social-emotional health, to express their feelings and understand others, including their parents!

TO-DO LIST: Commit to at least 30 minutes per day of exercise for your kids.

3. Take time away from devices 

Healthy habits - time away from devices

Since the pandemic began, screen time has gone through the roof – for everyone. Whether it’s using Google Meets for school, Zoom meetings for work, Instagram and Tik Tok for fun, or watching Disney movies and playing games on the Nintendo Switch, there’s a lot of device time taking place. Use part of the summer to build some new healthy habits and walk away from the devices. This Harvard research on the damages to the brain will make us step away from our screens this summer. Besides, nature is so nice this time of year. Enjoy the sunsets more. 

TO-DO LIST: Tie screen time with chores, and put limits on your phone, computers and gaming. (Editor’s note: we all need to do this here at MomResource.ca!)  

4.  Cook as a family 

Healthy habits: cooking together

One of the upsides of COVID-19 is that more people began to experiment with home cooking. As luck would have it, summer is the perfect time to teach your kids how to prepare easy meals and snacks – veggie and fruit trays, cheese and crackers and cool treats like easy fruit sorbet. Open up cookbooks (or search online) and teach them how to follow a recipe – anything from Sneaky Mommies is delicious and healthy. And, there’s nothing wrong with crockpot cooking in the summer; this easy pulled chicken recipe is great for Taco Tuesday.

TO-DO LIST: Choose a new recipe, and get the kids prepping and cooking. 

5. Soak up nature

Healthy habits - soak up nature

Nature is good for us, reducing our stress levels and enhancing social interactions with children. Adults that spend time in nature speed up their own healing process, reduce blood pressure, and help deal with anxiety. Nature also lowers the risk of cancers, and lifts our spirits. Get grounded – go in your bare feet more often. Research shows that 30 minutes of nature is the perfect amount of time for the healing properties to kick in. (If you need some inspiration, here’s a list of summer activities to enjoy in nature!)

TO-DO LIST: Print off the best hikes in Toronto, Ontario and Canada!

6. Sing

Healthy habits - sing

Did you know that singing boosts endorphins in much of the same way as exercise? Singing lowers cortisol levels and relieves stress and tension. Studies show that when children and adults sing, oxytocin is released by the brain, which also reduces anxiety. If you hear your kids singing in the bath, smile. Singing also improves energy.

TO-DO LIST: Put on music and find the lyrics together as a family. Dance too – dancing also boosts your energy levels! Or, join a choir! 

Health isn’t complicated. There are lots of different ways to build healthy habits… we hope these ideas inspire you to move more and feel better. 

Oh, and don’t forget to eat your veggies. 😉

Erin Phelan is a writer, health coach and fitness trainer with live and virtual classes. Her exercise videos can be found on her You Tube channel and links to healthy recipes and articles are at www.erinphelan.com.  Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.