Nothing beats the sound of your child’s laughter. As parents, we want our children to be healthy, happy kids. Learn the key components of how to raise happy kids.
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Raising Healthy, Happy Kids
When you walk hand in hand with a toddler and you approach a step, what do you do? You help pull them up and over the step. They are making the leap, but you are helping.
That is always our job as parents–to help our kids grow toward independence. We want them to be healthy and happy adults, and so we must look for ways to lift them up on their journey.
So have a mindset of growth. Be excited about each milestone your child reaches. It may be hard to watch your baby grow up (and need you less and less), but this is natural and right.
Be excited when they conquer new tasks. Encourage them to see failure not as an end-all, be-all, but as a learning opportunity. Instill in them the idea of “yet” where things may not be easy “yet” but with practice, they can be. Happy parents, happy kids!
Tip: These are the growth mindset cards that we use and love with our kids.
The first key to raising healthy, happy kids is to incorporate exercise and movement into their life. Not only does the physical activity strengthen their bodies, the endorphins from exercise make them happy!
Organized sports and activities can check this box, but you can also look beyond the “send them somewhere” approach. You want your kids to have healthy habits no matter what their schedules.
- Stock your house with toys that encourage movement: bikes, scooters, hula hoops, jump ropes, footballs, soccer balls, frisbees, wiffle balls–the sky’s the limit! That way when you hear the frequent phrase, “I’m bored,” you can reply, “Go play!”
- Blaze new trails. Become a hiking family. Kids love nature. Frequent local parks and trails. Try geocaching.
- Stretching and yoga. We all know baths are part of the bedtime routine, but what about some family stretching or yoga? Wouldn’t that be a marvelous (not to mention healthy) way to unwind from the day?
- Consider short bursts. Your kids don’t have to exercise for sixty minutes in a row to see a benefit. Short bursts of activity count as well! Send them up and down the stairs on errands, have them run around the house to get out the excess energy, and try online options such as Unicef Kid Power.
Let Kids Express Themselves
Self expression is a key to happiness. Kids who have difficulty expressing themselves in words are often frustrated. Even if your child has sufficient language, he may still struggle to express his emotions. Encourage kids to express themselves in different ways.
- Journal it out. Let go of your idea of the traditional journal. A journal is a safe place for a child to show their feelings. This could involve words or art. If you see your child struggling with anger, ask her to go journal about it for five minutes. Even if she only scribbles on the page in frustration, she is finding a healthy way to vent her emotions.
- Develop their style. Children have very few choices, especially when they are young. But they have opinions! Let them express themselves through their choice of clothing. You are not raising a fashion plate, so if they want to wear stripes and polka dots together–let them! Allow them select their own outfits as long as they pass the weather and modesty test. If this seems a bridge too far for you, let them pick their daily outfits from the clothes you put in their dresser.
- Put down your phone and listen. When you listen–truly listen–to someone, you give them a gift. Everyone, no matter the age, wants to be heard. So set aside some time each day to chat with your child, and let them do most of the talking. Listen to them actively. Sure, they may ramble on and on about Barbies or LEGOs (of which you have zero interest), but if you listen now, you set the stage for them to confide in you as they grow.
Another key to raising healthy, happy kids is encouraging creativity. Humans were born to create, and all of us have the creative impulse inside. This may take different forms, however. Your child will naturally gravitate to certain places of creativity.
Here are some ideas in different categories. If she likes something in one, she may like others in that list as well. There are items in each category for kids of different ages, from toddlers to high school.
Jewelry making. These activities are fantastic for developing fine motor ability: pop beads, traditional beading, Shrinky-dinks, polymer clay bead-making or jewelry design, bead-weaving, embroidery floss friendship bracelets, and Rainbow loom bracelets.
Music. This is more than just traditional instruments. It can also include musical kid toys, hand drums, rain sticks, harmonicas, finger pianos, jaw harps, and egg shakers. You can also create music online with Loopimal (an app for young kids), Classicsforkids.com, MusiQuest, and Soundtrap (for middle and high school students).
Fine arts. This includes watercolors, oil pastels, sidewalk chalk, crayons, and colored pencils, watercolor pencils, charcoal sticks, Aquabeads, suncatchers, Perler beads, scratch art, and painted rocks.
Words, words, words. This includes journaling, writing plays, stories, poems, assembling magnetic poetry, making their own newspaper or comic strip, and writing songs.
Importance of Sleep
If you want healthy, happy kids, getting adequate sleep is a must. That means a sleep routine (not staying up super late one night and crashing early the next). There will always be exceptions when a late night is warranted (Aunt Suzie’s wedding or the family trip to Disney), but kids (and adults) with consistent sleep patterns are happier and healthier.
If your child has difficulty falling asleep, set the stage for slumber:
- Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. And definitely don’t keep those devices in the bedroom.
- Limit how much they drink before bed. (This makes good sense for a lot of reasons!)
- Make sure their room is comfortably dark. If they need a nightlight, find a soft and dim one.
- Exercise during the day. (See? It pays dividends in the sleep department too!)
- Establish a calming bedtime routine. This could include stretching, a bath, listening to soft music, or reading a book.
How much sleep does your child need? Although every person is different, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends these guidelines per 24 hours (this includes naps + nighttime sleep for babies and toddlers).
- Infants 4-12 months: 12-16 hours
- Children 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
- Children ages 3-5: 10-13 hours
- Children ages 6-12: 9-12 hours
- Teens ages 13-18: 8-10 hours
Getting adequate sleep results in better focus, behavior, memory, emotional balance, and mental and physical health. It is a must for healthy, happy kids!
They Won’t Be Happy Every Single Day
Kids aren’t robots; you can’t program them for happiness. They will have days when they are emotional, angry, or depressed. They will make choices outside your control that aren’t the healthiest (like sneaking Halloween candy or staying up all night at a sleepover).
But you can stack the deck in their favor by creating routine and a positive home environment. Get them moving, let them express themselves, encourage creativity, and settle into a healthy sleep routine. When your healthy, happy kids turn into healthy, happy adults, they will thank you for it.