The home is the first school of children. As parents it is our solemn responsibility to teach our kids the values that we hold dear, including understanding and appreciating the importance of maintaining health and keeping fit. It does not necessarily have to be in a very formal and highly structured way. The most important thing is to develop healthy habits for kids that they will be able to bring with them as they grow older. Very young children may not understand it yet but if you are going to show them the proper way to do things, then they will be able to understand the value of it when they reach a certain age.
Here are some ways how you can teach your kids to value health at a very young age.
Understand the Developmental Patterns of Your Kids
Young children look at their parents with wide-eyed amazement. Infants are fascinated with vibrant colors, moving objects, and uniquely sounding things. Toddlers are little explorers and as such would want nothing less than the ability to explore a lot of things, even dangerous ones. Preschoolers now have parent favorites. They either want to be associated with mom or with dad. Little girls are known to be a lot closer to dad by this time while little boys will be aptly called mama’s boy. No pun intended, of course. The point is that different child development stages have distinct characteristics. It is therefore important for you as the parent of these kids to understand what these developmental characteristics are and use this knowledge in your teaching of the value of health.
For example, since very young children love anything colorful and moving and make sounds, you may want to use tooth brushes that are as colorful as the rainbow or may have a handle that makes sounds or even lights up when shaken. If you have a toddler, maybe you can include some unique building blocks during bath time to make it more interesting. Provide something that he will be naturally curious about and associate that with the healthy habit that you would like to impart. This goes well into food preparation. You want your toddler to eat healthy? Then you need to prepare food that is really appealing and very interesting. Instead of laying down his food bare and bland, why not hide his favorite food on a heap of vegetables so that he will be stimulated to dig it up? Be creative.
Join Your Kids in Their Activities and Make it fun
Kids naturally love to play. This is a very important concept for you to understand. That means, all of your health teachings should be fun and enjoyable. You can join them during their bathing, tooth brushing, and grooming activities. Make feeding times more interesting by creating dishes that are not only appetizing but also visually appealing and intellectually stimulating. Join them in their activities and introduce certain health concepts in a way that is appropriate to their learning age.
Be a Good Role Model
What better way to teach kids than being a good role model for them? You want them to eat vegetables and fruits and all the right food stuff? Then you also need to show them that you enjoy eating these kinds of foods. What is most frustrating to see is some parents who tell their kids that eating vegetables and fruits and whole grains is healthier than junk foods, oily and fatty foods, and highly carbonated beverages. What message do you think the kids will get? You tell them to take a bath yet you only take a bath yourself twice a week. You tell them that smoking is bad for health yet they see you lighting your favorite cigarette brand every now and then.
Expose Them to Kid-Friendly Healthcare Professionals as Early as Possible
Kids have been known to associate people in white with pain and suffering. That is why it is very important to expose your kids to medical doctors and dentists at the earliest possible time. However, it is very important that you choose your healthcare provider carefully. You need someone who knows how to handle kids in a very non-threatening way. You need a doctor and a dentist who knows how to have fun while caring for the health and wellness of your kids. It goes without saying that a pediatrician and a pediatric dentist is well-suited for this job. However, not all children’s health specialists are naturally good with children. The point is for you to choose a healthcare professional who will provide a very pleasant, non-traumatic, experience for your children. This is very important because traumatic experiences in childhood can persist up to adulthood.
Teaching young kids to value health is challenging simply because of their not yet fully developed cognitive understanding. However, it is important that you show them the correct and proper way to care for one’s body. When they grow up and realize why they do the things you taught them while they were still very young, they will really appreciate the small fun things you have taught them.