Winter break: Keeping kids happy and healthy
MILWAUKEE – Winter break is a time when parents may be challenged to occupy their children in ways that are more stimulating than simply having them watch TV and play video games. TOPS Club, Inc., the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, has developed a list of strategies to guide parents in keeping kids focused on health, while still having fun during their vacation from school.
Share a Day of Winter Sports with Your Children – Introduce your children to a new winter sport or share a familiar one the whole family enjoys. There are many outdoor activities that are popular in the winter months. You can go ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, or snowshoeing, just to name a few. Cold weather doesn’t have to be an excuse not to get outside and exercise.
Walk in a Winter Wonderland – After dinner one night, take the kids on a tour of their neighborhood and look at the unique way your neighbors have decorated their homes for the holidays. Often we take those beautiful sites for granted, when driving by quickly in our cars. The walking and brisk fresh air can do everyone good.
Make Exercise a Family Fun Event – Turn on an exercise DVD or your favorite upbeat music and exercise with your children. Older kids can be encouraged to use exercise equipment like a treadmill or join you in your own exercise routine. You could also just dance. Many of today’s most popular workouts that are effective in burning calories incorporate dance moves. No one said exercise can’t be fun or a family activity.
Spend Time at the Museum – When it’s too cold for outdoor activities, but you and the kids really need to get out of the house, a museum is an enjoyable and educational way to incorporate learning and the basic exercise of walking.
Become a Healthy Eating Role Model – Mom, Dad, Big Brother, and even Grandma can model good eating behaviors. Introduce new and exotic fruits to kids, like kiwi, or propose a healthier alternative to ice cream, such as trying fruit yogurt for desert one evening. Parents should be open to trying new foods, themselves. Showing your children that it’s fun to experiment with meals and food choices is a great example for kids to follow.
Don’t Push Food on Your Kids – The more you force a child to eat a certain food, the less he or she will like it. You should still offer your children different foods to try, but don’t force kids to clean their plate. One way to empower your kids and expose them to new foods is to offer them a choice. Parents could say, “We are going to add a new vegetable to the dinner plate,” and let the kids choose which of three equally healthy choices they want to try. Make a game of trying new and healthy food choices – see if the kids can guess what they’re eating and be prepared to share interesting information about it once they do.
Avoid Becoming Too Strict – While it’s good to get rid of junk food, don’t turn into “the food police,” or forbid kids to eat certain foods, because that just makes them want it more. Allow special treats within reason. Calling the snack a “special treat” reinforces the idea that certain foods are not everyday items.
Schedule a Day of Cooking with Your Children – Cooking with your kids teaches them valuable skills and also gives them precious time with you. Have smaller children help you measure, stir dry ingredients, and count out ingredients with you. Allow older children to do things themselves under your supervision.