Have Kids Join the Clean Slate Club This New Year
Save champagne toasts for the grown-ups. But as the time comes to crack open a new calendar, consider involving your kids in another New Year’s tradition: making resolutions. The fresh start that comes naturally in January can inspire your whole family to make healthy, positive changes. Just choose realistic goals appropriate for your child’s age and stage. Try these ideas, or write up your own!
Infants and toddlers: Make play time active time.
Encourage active play that engages little ones in the world. Nesting cups, building blocks or banging pots are good examples. Daily, unstructured playtime can stimulate your child’s creativity. In addition, regular “talk time” between you and your child can help with language development.
It’s a good idea to limit your young one’s screen time, as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding digital media like television and computers in children younger than 18 to 24 months (except video chats). Around 18 to 24 months, parents can begin to introduce educational programs, but the AAP recommends parents watch the shows with their children. For kids ages 2 through 5, the AAP suggests limiting screen time to one hour of quality programming per day, and says parents should continue watching alongside their children to help them understand what they see. Parents can serve as role models by limiting their own media use, too.
Preschoolers: Help make healthy food.
“I won’t eat anything green.” “I only want peanut-butter sandwiches.” Children asserting their independence often do so at the lunch or dinner table. Most picky eaters improve over time—but you can help ensure your little one gets all the nutrients he or she needs. Assign preschoolers small jobs in the kitchen and praise their efforts. Most kids won’t reject a dish they helped prepare.
School-age kids: Play a sport at least three times a week.
Swimming, soccer, baseball. Encourage your growing child to follow his or her athletic dreams. Though the odds of netting a scholarship or major-league contract are slim, organized sports boost fitness, develop motor skills, and teach teamwork. Plus, kids who started extracurricular physical activities in kindergarten were better students and leaders by fourth grade, a new study suggests. Just don’t place too big an emphasis on winning—set goals geared toward fun, friendship, and health instead.
Teens: Saw more logs.
As many as one in four adolescents navigates teen life sleep-deprived, experts say. And one study shows teens get less sleep now than at any time in the past 20 years. The result? Poorer school performance, weight gain, car accidents, depression, and reckless behaviors, including substance use. Most teens need nine hours a night. Help yours get it by keeping bedrooms dark and cool and limiting caffeine and naps to morning hours. And start a family bedtime routine that includes a media curfew—texts, calls, and bright light from screens disrupt rest.