Mindfulness for kids: Seven ideas to help our kids build healthy habits
by IGNACIO DE GRADO
Do you want a better chance of creating happy, healthy, productive adults? We know the importance of teaching our kids healthy habits—and we want to be consistent about doing it. A big part of that consistency is modeling those habits for our children. We want them to see us going for a walk after dinner every night or each morning to sit down and read a book together before school.
Even if we struggle to maintain healthy habits as adults, our children can encourage us to stay the course because we want to see them thrive. What better way to help kick off the new year then by committing to building healthy habits for our whole family?
Below are seven tips to help kids build healthy habits at any age:
1 Daily reading
The benefits of reading with kids have been well-researched and documented, and there’s no arguing that consistent reading will build a myriad of skills for children of all ages. Reading daily with your kids will help them build a strong foundation for reading comprehension, language and vocabulary development, and critical thinking skills, to name a few. Reading is vital to a child's development, and instilling this skill at a young age will set them up for success throughout their educational years—and beyond.
But there's more: daily reading is an important habit that can help children build character. Reading encourages them to take responsibility for themselves, teaches them how to reach goals and stay dedicated, helps them become better listeners (which will help them learn), and builds their self-esteem because they're succeeding at something difficult for them. Read as often as possible with your children, not just for the educational benefits but for the bond that it helps to solidify between parent and child!
2 Daily movement
First and foremost, get outside whenever you can! Fresh air is a great way to help you feel energized and awake—and the same goes for your kids. Getting out in the sun can help you concentrate better and do more. Plus, physical activity is essential for kids learning to make good choices about what they eat and how much they exercise.
Set an example by doing active things as a family—go for walks, go on bike rides, sign up for a 5k together and work towards completing it as a family. If your kids are interested in sports, encourage them to try different activities until they find the ones they like best. If your kids are playing sports or taking classes at school, talk to their teachers about ways you can volunteer there—this way, you'll be able to support their interests while also helping them develop essential skills like teamwork and communication.
3 Prioritize sleep
When we are sleep deprived, our cognition is impaired, our judgment suffers, and our ability to perform tasks is reduced—this will make it even harder for them to build good habits.
Sleep is one of the most effective ways to increase performance and productivity. Sleep improves your ability to focus on tasks, access memory, and sustain attention across time. It also helps regulate the body's immune and endocrine systems and increases creativity. Without quality sleep, we're more likely to experience mood swings, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and other mental and physical illnesses.
Studies suggest that deprived teens have a higher risk of developing depression or other emotional problems. They also may be more prone to drug addiction due to a lack of dopamine, which is released when they get a good night's sleep. But it isn't just about how much time they spend sleeping—it's when they're sleeping that matters too!
Research has shown that teenagers need at least 9 hours of sleep each night (8-10 hours is ideal), but less than 7 hours per night is considered insufficient. We can all benefit from getting more sleep, and modeling healthy sleep habits will help our children to do the same.
4 Find joy in at least one thing every day.
Before your kids go to bed each night, ask them to think about what they enjoyed doing that day. Then, ask them to think about why it was enjoyable for them. This will help them realize that many things in life bring us joy and happiness, even if we don't always notice them at first glance.
One of the best ways we can model this for our children is by pointing out the joy we experience in small moments that may otherwise be overlooked. Be vocal about feeling the warm sunshine, taking your first sip of cold water when you’re thirsty, or cuddling up under your favorite blanket. We can teach children to find joy daily if we are mindful of how we experience joy in everyday situations.
5 Minimize screen time
When it comes to our kids, we want to provide them with the best tools for future success. One of the most important habits to form is a healthy, realistic relationship with time. In an increasingly digital world, we watch hours go by on screens while life passes us by. Kids often have access to these devices 24/7, which makes it even more vital that they gain the ability to interact with the natural world and its people.
By limiting screen time and encouraging them to play outside and engage with other kids, you're building their awareness of what's happening around them while also giving them an outlet for self-expression and creativity. Our children are a mirror for how much we utilize screens in our own lives. Be sure to let them see you put down your devices to engage in the present moment.
These Planet Earth and healthy life planners make a great alternative to screen time and are a great way to model a healthy outlet for stress for your children. Journal writing can be a fantastic way for families to unplug from their devices and connect
6 Don’t fill every moment with activities
It's easy to fall into the comparison trap of what other families do with their children! We have so many options: music lessons, sports leagues, art classes, and the list goes on. We don’t want our kids to miss out on opportunities and want them to be well-rounded individuals, so often, we find ourselves rushing them from place to place without much time to breathe in between.
We must allow our children to do their most extraordinary work: uninterrupted play. If we fill each moment with activities, we do not allow our children to discover what interests they truly have or what they may want to pursue. We are not wrong for wanting them to have every opportunity available, but we also must give them the gift of space to blossom into their own individual.
These affirmation cards for kids are an excellent way to remind our children that they are lovely just as they are!
7 Prioritize consistency
Building healthy habits in kids takes a lot of time and patience, but it begins with making them feel secure. Achieving consistency with your kids is paramount because it will help them build a routine, which is essential for establishing trust that things will happen as expected. And when children know what to expect, they're more likely to be able to respond positively to surprises—like when you need them to take care of themselves or do something meaningful without your help.
While unexpected things are bound to happen, and we cannot be rigid with our schedules all the time, ensuring that kids have some consistency in their days and know what to expect ahead of them will help them become more flexible and adaptable to life’s inevitable changes. That's why you need healthy habits for yourself as much as for them—you're trying to build trust so your child can count on you in return.