Take note, everything you need to know on how to give your child the highest opportunity to thrive
We all want our children to be as healthy as possible. Our children need the same things that we do to be healthy. However, since they are growing so much, both physically and mentally, they have some different requirements. Let’s talk about some of the key things we can do for our children to help their bodies and minds grow properly.
Sleep is extremely important to support your child’s growth. Missing even 30-60 minutes of sleep can have negative effects on attention, behavior, and health. To get the amount of sleep that they require, it is important to have an earlier bedtime between 7-8 PM. A calming routine to wind down at night makes for a better night of sleep. Reading with the kids before bed is great. Avoid screen time for at least an hour before bed. The amount of sleep that each child needs is different but, on average, a child age 3-5 should get 10-13 hours a day and a child age 6-13 should get 9-11 hours a day.
Children are naturally active. However, with technology and with busy schedules, we are at risk of having our children be more sedentary. Unstructured playtime is important for the developing brain. Too much screen time has been shown to have negative effects on development and social skills. Children ages 2-5 years should be limited to 1 hour per day of high quality screen. As your child gets older, he or she may be allowed slightly more screen time, but it is important to enforce daily screen limits.
Have your child try different activities to find things that they like to do. Provide them with active games and toys. When it comes to devices we also need to model behavior. We need to be sure our children do not feel they are 2nd to our phones.
Children need the same nutrients as adults but require different amounts of these nutrients as they age. When you shop for food, you want to shop around the edges of the grocery store and avoid the processed foods that pack the center of the store.
Have healthy options available for snacks such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Get junk food out of the house; if chips, cookies, and candy are available they are going to choose to eat that. Avoid fruit juices as these are loaded with sugar and avoid fried foods and trans fats.
In general, I recommend a mostly gluten-free diet for both children and adults as gluten can cause low levels of inflammation in most people. Good gluten-free carbohydrate sources are quinoa, rice, and root vegetables.
Healthy fats are important for brain development. These include avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and coconut oil. Avoid vegetable oils.
You want to purchase meats that are grass-fed and pasture-raised. This is more costly but worth it – after all, you are eating what that animal ate.
Breakfast is an important meal providing energy for the day. Avoid cereals. Healthy choices may include hard-boiled or scrambled eggs, a piece of fruit, yogurt with granola, or a protein smoothie (with greens).
If your child is eating a healthy diet, which includes fruits and vegetables, they are most likely getting the majority of the nutrients they need. A few supplements that children can benefit from are: a quality multivitamin, vitamin D, Omega 3 fatty acids, and a probiotic. If you are giving your child supplements you want to be sure the doing is appropriate for their age.
Quality of family time is more important than quantity. Set aside time where you are fully present with the family. Plan active family activities and prepare meals together.
So, what might a good day look like for your child:
- Wake at 6:30 a.m. and help you put together a healthy lunch and snacks for school.
- Sit down for a good breakfast, i.e. some scrambled eggs and berries.
- Off to school.
- After school, spend some time outside riding bikes, going for a walk, playing, or participate in a structured after school activity.
- Spend 1 hour watching an educational program or playing some stimulating/educational games.
- Help prepare a nutritious dinner.
- Sit down together with the family (phones away) and eat dinner while having good conversation.
- Work on any school work together.
- Start getting ready for bed, brush teeth, and PJs. Read some books together and snuggle before lights go out by 8PM.