If you know me, you'll come to find out that I'm pretty passionate about health. I believe it's incredibly important to focus on holistic health and ultimately ensure that you make it a priority to have a healthy mind and body. In our nation, it's easy to zone in on a healthy body because we currently have an obesity epidemic.
I know this is a complicated issue from a world perspective, but, it's not from our country's perspective. I'm not talking about aesthetics here; I'm talking about a lifestyle that limits preventable diseases and complications by eating a healthy diet and remaining mobile and active.
Our children need to be educated about these needs because, let's face it, we live in a country that values a dollar over many things and our processed foods continue to be made cheaper, with little concern over the nutritional benefit to the consumer.
I've been pleased to see that General Mills recently announced that they will be removing artificial ingredients in their cereals. These are small steps, but positive ones nonetheless. Other companies are doing the same. As our manufacturers begin to make changes, we need to follow suit at home as well so that our children don't have the same challenges that we obviously do.
We have our kids in several different activities and one that always becomes a point of contention with me is team sports and snacks. First of all, I don't think a child needs a snack after 45min-1 hour of general physical activity. It creates a culture of eating for routine, or worse, eating for reward.
We are busy. I get that. It's been bred into us. I get that. Our barber, doctor's offices, and several other places we spend time at have candy jars. I have two in my office at work and it's a normal sight to other offices that I travel to as well.
Houston - we have a problem!
Why? Why so much sugar? The next person who says "it's just a little sugar" to me is going to end up not liking me. It's not "just a little sugar" when a kid gets it in their cereal, oatmeal, peanut butter, yogurt, crackers, chips, drinks, etc. they've been being rewarded all day if you look at it like that! We know it's bad for us and we need to be active in our pursuit of other reward schemes to help our kids combat some of the challenges. It's hard enough to make your way through the intentionally confusing nutritional and ingredient lists. Your children aren't dogs, so quit giving them treats like they are.
I used some brain power and consulted with some friends to make a list of examples of ways you can reward a kid without giving them candy.
1. Have a "sleepover" in the parent's bed. Can't sleep with your kids? Just give up your bed for the night. I guarantee any kid will think this is awesome.
2. Let them be in charge of picking the next movie/show you watch.
3. Let them pick an activity to do or game to play.
4. Praise them! Explain to them why what they did was great and how it makes you feel. Don't forget to ask them how it made them feel so they can connect that doing something positive feels good.
5. Take away one of their chores so they can use the time to do something else they prefer. We are big on teaching priorities, so this can be a great reward because they can shift their responsibility and have control over what they'd rather do.
6. Write them a note. Both of my older kids love getting notes. I make jokes, draw pictures, etc.
7. Give them uninterrupted attention. This seems like a given, but it's not. Go hang out with your kid. Go sit in their room with them, so play (you too...not just watching) at the park, or go on a walk!
8. Let them stay up a little later than their usual bedtime. What kid doesn't want to stay up past their bed time?!
9. Let them pick out new produce to try next time you go shopping. This is one way that we got our son to stop being a picky eater. We've had some bombs, but even then the experience is fun.
10. Plant a flower or plant in honor of the deed so they can have a constant reminder.
Ultimately, if you spend some time finding innovative ways to shift the focus towards other positive things, I guarantee you are helping your child learn more than just healthy eating.