Raising a child is no easy task! Yes, it’s a joy like no other, but it’s also a huge responsibility. You have to instill healthy habits for kids so that they enjoy good health, and don’t spread infections to other children.  Here are some things you must teach your children:

1. Wash Hands Frequently

Though this seems simple, it’s a crucial step in ensuring hygiene for self and others. Teach your child to wash hands before and after every meal, every time they visit the washroom, after play, or touching objects lying on the floor or outside the house.

2. Brush Twice a Day

For very young kids, you may have to do this yourself, but get them into the habit of brushing twice – in the morning when they get up, and at night before going to bed. Not doing so can cause cavities, plaque or tartar buildup, necessitating visits to the dentist’s office; not to mention, painful moments.

3. Bathing Every Day

This is one of the most important of good habits for kids. Bathe your toddlers and very young kids yourself, and encourage them to bathe on their own as they grow older. Tell them how if they remain unwashed, they are inviting germs to cause illnesses. Teach them to clean various parts of the body, especially crevices. If they come back all sweaty and dirty after play, they should wash or bathe even if they have already bathed earlier in the day.

4. Not to Drink from the Same Glass/Bottle

It’s natural for children to share their snack boxes and drinks with their friends. Putting the mouth to the same bottle or glass is one of the fastest ways to spread germs, and illnesses like cold, strep throat, flu etc. Explain gently that they can share but to pour the drink into another glass.

5. Covering the mouth

Give your child a hanky or tissues and teach them to cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough to prevent the germs from spreading everywhere. Tell them that they can make their friends sick if they don’t cover their mouths.

6. Drink Water

Most children are fussy about drinking water and end up becoming dehydrated or contracting urinary tract infections. Encourage your child to drink plenty of water. Give them their own ‘special’ bottles. Tell them that by drinking water, they will flush out all the bad stuff that tends to build up in the body.

7. Have a Hearty Breakfast

Healthy eating for children begins with a good, healthy breakfast. It helps them concentrate better at school, improves memory and reasoning, and make them more energetic for studies, sport, and other activities.

8. Restrict Screen Time

Whether it’s TV, computer or a tablet, set specific times they are allowed to watch their favorite cartoons or play games. They should never have more than 30 minutes at one time, and not more than 2 hours including TV and gaming. Teach them that it affects their eyes, and can get pain and watery eyes, and that it also affects their brain, and stops them from being good at school activities. They should not have any screen time at least an hour to an hour and a half before going to sleep.

9. Outdoors Time

Encourage them to get off the couch and spend time outdoors. If you have a pet, especially a dog, it’s a good way to get them to spend more time outdoors. Give them the responsibility of taking Fido for a walk.

10. Physical Activity

Make sure your children get adequate physical activity – it could be walking, playing, running about with their friends, swimming, or cycling – whatever best appeals to them. Enroll them in tennis lessons, or even dance (ballet is great for girls). Physical activity improves blood circulation, improves metabolism, and is good for their all-round development. You can tell them it makes them strong and big – always works with kids!

11. Limit Fast Food

Ensure your child eats plenty of fresh fruit, veggies, and home cooked, healthy meals. Junk food can be given as a treat, that too once a week or fortnight. Rather than take them out to fast-food restaurants, take them on picnics with packed meals like sandwiched and fruit.

12. Healthy Food Options

Instill healthy eating habits for kids by offering them healthy alternatives from the time they are very young, so that they will continue to eat healthy when they grow older. Give them whole wheat bread instead of white bread; low fat ice-cream or yoghurt; healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and dry fruit instead of cookies, more lean meats, red meats in limitation, grill, steam, or bake rather than deep fry; mashed potatoes rather than fries, and so on.

13. Reading

This is one habit that is sadly missing in today’s kids. From the time they are able to read, get them lots of books. In fact you can start them even earlier. By reading out stories to them, you can get them interested in books. Show them picture books with bright images. At every step, you can give your children age-appropriate books so that their interest is maintained. It will help them improve their vocabulary and language.

14. Sleep – Wake Times

Create a regular schedule of sleep and waking up for your child. Having a proper sleep cycle is one of the most important of healthy habits for kids. Put them to bed at a specified time every night, and make them comfortable: draw curtains, dim lights, tell or read them a story, and tuck them in. Make sure very young kids get at least 9 hours of sleep; slightly older kids can make do with 8 hours. They will wake up feeling refreshed and energetic. Waking up time also has to be fixed, and don’t allow them to loiter in bed once they are awake.

15. Being Responsible

This can include several things, like cleaning up their room; giving them a fixed chore to do at home (it could be taking out trash for older kids, piling dishes in the washer for younger kids); giving them pocket money and asking to keep a journal of how they spent it; learning to share with friends and family; developing empathy for fellow human beings and animals; not littering – at home or in public places, and so on.

Remember, children copy what adults do, especially their parents. The best way to teach healthy habits for kids is by doing them yourself. Set a good example for your children and your job is half done.

Also view our presentation on Nutrition for Children of all age groups. Visit : https://www.slideshare.net/epicprimarycare/epic-pediatric-nutrition