Helping Kids Build Healthy Habits
Habits are a huge part of our lives. Beginning healthy habits in childhood may make it easier to continue them or build other healthy habits as an adult. If you work with kids or have kids of your own, you have the power to help them shape positive habits!
What habits matter most?
Kids learn so much on a daily basis, and the adults in their lives have so much to teach them! There are many habits that can contribute to a happy life in the long run. So when helping kids build habits, how do we decide which habits to focus on?
Habits that make your own life a little easier are a great place to start. Plus, kids tend to model the behavior of the adults around them. If they see you practicing and encouraging positive habits, it could help them get into the same habits!
However, positive habits don’t end there. There are many habits we can help kids to develop, even ones that are helpful to the world around them, such as making eco-conscious decisions. For example, a teenager could build the habit of making lunch for the next day at school. Not buying a lunch can prevent using single-use plastic containers and utensils.
Some helpful habits to teach kids could include:
- Cleaning up their room or play area
- Helping to clear the table after meals
- Limiting tv and screen time
- Completing homework at a consistent time
- Getting ready for bed at the same time each night
- Helping parents with household chores
- Waking up at the same time each morning
- Getting exercise
How to help kids build healthy habits
Find activities that they enjoy
Forming habits is much easier when there is an element of enjoyment. Although some kids may change their minds often, it’s worth it to try different activities to find ones that are really enjoyable to them.
For example, if you’re helping a kid with building the habit of getting exercise, they may want to try a few things, like martial arts, gymnastics, dance, swimming, or hockey. When they find an activity that they really enjoy, it will be easier for them to form a habit around it.
If you’re trying to help kids build a habit of reading, it may take a few tries to find books that they really enjoy. It’s worth trying new things to ensure that they can enjoy building the habit and are more likely to stick with it!
Model the behavior
Kids absorb a lot of what’s going on around them. If you model positive and healthy habits, then your kids are likely to become interested in the same habits. Better yet, you can involve the kids in your own positive habits! Here are a few examples of how you might do this:
- Have them help you clear the table after meals
- Ask them to join you for a walk around the neighborhood
- Encourage them to read with you or read aloud to you if they’re working on their reading skills.
Discuss habits openly
Kids often understand more than we give them credit for! If parents or guardians, counselors, or other adults in a child’s life let them know of the positive outcomes that can come from forming a positive habit, they may take that knowledge to heart.
Positive outcomes to tell kids about can include feeling happy and healthy, feeling smart, feeling confident, managing stress, having a clean room, and being able to do a good job at school and work in the future.
Just like adults, kids might need reminders to get things done! They’ll likely need reminders when it’s time to do chores or homework, or time to go to bed. You can also help them practice setting a reminder or marking a calendar. These planning tasks will help to build their executive function skills as well!
A healthy and happy life is made more achievable through healthy habits. Kids are constantly learning new skills concerning how to function in the world, and incorporating positive habits into their lives from an early age can make a huge difference in their lives.