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15 Healthy Habits to Teach Your Kids

As parents, you can elevate the everyday by modeling positivity, organization and joy.

Mom reading to her child. Healthy habits to teach your kids.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Healthy habits can sound like no-brainers to adults. But kids need to learn the basics for living with positivity, organization, and joy. How many of these ideas are you working on with your kids? Here are some healthy habits to teach your kids.

1)  Wash Your Hands

On the off chance the Covid pandemic hasn’t taught us all this lesson, make sure your kids know to wash their hands whenever they come in from being outside, before eating, and after using the bathroom.

2)  Read for Pleasure

Books, magazines, comics, graphic novels—reading is reading is reading. Kids will have years of “have to” reads, assigned from school. Foster in them the joy of curling up with material that takes them to different times and places, showing them the world through different eyes.

3)  Eat the Rainbow

Color-based eating is healthy eating. The more you can teach your kids to seek out greens, oranges, yellows, and even purples on their plates, the more healthful their overall diet will be as they grow.

4)  Say Good Morning and Good Night

How we start and end our day is important. Encourage your kids to greet the day, and bid it good evening, to bookend each day with positivity and peace.

5)  Ask, “How Are You?”

Some kids love to talk, others need support in learning how to relate to others. Start your children with the habit of launching into a conversation with a “how are you,” “how’s it going,” or other open question that invites another person into their world.

6)  Share

This goes for toys, money, time—all the things that we have, kids can learn to be in the habit of sharing. We don’t have to share everything all the time, but having a generous nature is a habit worth having.

7)  Show Gratitude

Sure, you teach your kids to say “thank you” when they’re given something. Deepen their good manners into a healthy habit by showing them the wide range of things they can express gratitude for—and the different ways they can show it, like a thank-you note or drawing.

8)  Count to 10

We all have our moments of frustration, anger, and impatience. Getting in the habit of counting slowly to 10 (and back down, if the situation warrants a longer pause) is a time-tested way to calm down. The more your kids practice it, the more automatic a response it will become when life’s challenges confront them.

9)  Dress for Success

Kids love to pick out their own clothes, but sometimes can forget to match their clothing to the weather. Get yours in the habit of expecting to wear a jacket in the wintertime, boots on a rainy day, and socks with sneakers. Laying out tomorrow’s outfit tonight is a good way to dress for success and stay ahead of the morning rush.

10) Talk About Your Feelings

Naming our feelings is not always easy, but it’s an important habit to be in if we are going to be emotionally literate adults. Give your kids the language of emotions—starting with sad, mad, and glad and building to more complex feelings like confusion, glee, or surprise. Help them get used to sentences that start, “I am feeling….”

11) Show Compassion

Kids need to learn to look beyond their own horizons to see things from a new perspective. Even in tough situations like when someone is unkind to them, teach them to consider what that person might be feeling, and incorporate that understanding into their response. While they’re at it, they can learn to show compassion to themselves, too.

12) Ask Questions

“Why?” is a universal childhood question. Even though we (often) don’t have the answers, it’s healthy to encourage the question-asking, in simple terms and also in more complex and challenging ways as they grow. Kids who are in the habit of asking questions know they always have more to learn.

13) Do Your Best

It can be tempting for kids to compare themselves to others. Remind them to be in the habit of asking themselves, “Did I do my best today?” Over time, they will recognize that a strong effort is its own kind of success.

14) Keep Clean

Regular and thorough bathing and other hygiene habits are central to positive living. Teaching kids to love their bodies and tend to themselves from their hair to their teeth to their toes will set them up for lifelong healthy habits.

15) Put Your Things Away

Cleanliness isn’t just about taking care of our bodies. Having organized play and homework spaces lets kids find what they are looking for when they’re ready to roll. And putting things back where they belong when they’re done teaches them how to wrap up an activity on a positive note.

Can you suggest more healthy habits to teach your kids?

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