Here’s a disclaimer: Healthy Families are NOT Perfect Families. They may grab a pizza for dinner or let their kids watch too much TV one day. Their kids throw temper tantrums and insist they must wear the same shirt 3 days in a row. And guess what? It’s OK! The biggest thing is that we’re trying. I was inspired to write this post after this article on extraordinarily healthy families. I thought some of the tips were really great, and wanted to add some of my own advice and experiences to it.
Some of these tips you may already do and there might be some new ideas for your family to try. Don’t get overwhelmed trying to make all these a habit with your family in one day or even one week. Remember: it’s our small, daily efforts that add up to big results!
1.Get Outside And Play
With the weather cooling down, the temperature is perfect for afternoon and early evening playtime. Cold winter months means lots of time indoors, so take advantage of the nice weather and play outside as much as possible!
“Ideally that means, for children, some kind of physical activity every day, and for adults, a minimum of four days a week,” clinical psychologist Steve Orma says
Kick a soccer ball in the grass, play catch, draw silly pictures with chalk, visit the park, or ride bikes and scooters. Use this time to develop healthy habits, but also to bond as a family.
2. Have a NO PHONE zone
With younger kids, this can mean a NO SCREEN TIME zone. I typically power off my devices for an hour or two each day so I can focus on my children and spend quality time with them. When my phone is powered off I’m not tempted to sneak a peek at my messages. For some families, the no phone zone is during homework time or dinner time. Other families have a drawer or other charging station where phones go at bedtime so no one can use them after a certain time. Do what works best for you family.
3. Make Meal Prep a Family Activity
Why should mom do all the work when it comes to meal prep? Mealtime is a great opportunity to teach children healthy eating habits and cooking skills they’ll use later in life. You can talk to your family about why what you’re eating is healthy and good for your body. If you cook certain things like chicken ahead of time to use throughout the week, have kids help you scoop up the portions of chicken and transfer it into a freezer bag or Tupperware. Most young kids are eager to help in the kitchen, it’s usually the adult who shoos them away.
“Take them to the grocery store and help them learn to read labels. Choose a recipe together and then say, ‘Let’s get your ingredients.’”
For older kids, try teaching them a simple meal to make, doing it once together. Then, the next time you make it, have them do most of it on their own. I know families who have their older children in charge of a dinner each week.
4. Organize Your Schedules Around Good Health
“To keep your family on the track toward healthy living, try getting a calendar and putting it in a place where everyone in the family can see. Then use it: Schedule the night the kids are in charge of making dinner. Add the once-a-month family bike ride to the park or the weekly driveway basketball game.”
Don’t do something once and then never do it again. Writing it on a calendar and part of your normal routine will help make these ideas into healthy habits that are just part of your normal family life.
5. Rethink Snacktime
The easiest way to tackle this is to get the junk out of the house and fill it with healthy options (for tips, see my post on cleaning out the junk). Make healthy foods accessible to your family (keep them in a bowl on the counter or on a low shelf in the fridge), and if you haven’t already, make sure each member of your family has their own reusable water bottle.
I heard a great family tip the other week: another mom shared with me that the first Sunday of each month is a time when the parents have a one on one council with each child. They keep it informal and just ask about how things are going and if the child has any problems or concerns they want to talk about. I love this idea and can see how it would be especially beneficial if you have school aged children!
“Mental health, sleep, experiences at school and how they’re interacting with others are so closely linked, and if something is bothering or troubling a child, it will affect their overall well-being.”
Of course dinnertime, rides to school, and when your playing outside together are all other great times to talk openly as a family. Make communicating a fun part of your day where all members of your family take turns talking and listening to others.
7. Wind Down Together
Try to establish a strong bedtime routine and make it a family affair (even if your kids go to bed earlier than you). Get things ready for the next day such as lunches, homework and outfits. Read books together, tell each other what you were thankful for that day, and start to relax and unwind. Experts suggest to give yourself at least 1 hour to unwind before bed…so if you want your kids in bed by 8, start your routine at 7.
I know a mom who tells her kids she will read books to them until 8pm. So that means if they can get in PJs with brushed teeth and go potty quickly, they have more time to read. But some nights they drag their feet and complain and only have 10 minutes to read. I thought this was a clever idea.
8. Keep Exercise Fun
Staying healthy and active is a life-long habit. What is your attitude when it comes to working out? Do your kids hear you grumbling and complaining? You are their example for healthy living…a lot of times your attitude becomes their attitude. Don’t be afraid to try new activities or to ask your children what they would like to do.
We went paddle boarding on our recent family vacation for the first time with our little buddies. They sat really good and just chilled while we were on the lake. It was fun, relaxing, and a workout all at the same time! For more tips on keeping exercise fun, see my post on incorporating kids into your fitness routine.