Ahhh the topic of kids. As a 27 year-old with no kids, I’m certainly not an expert in this area. Besides teaching some gym classes and giving high fives to kids who come with their moms to Mamatone, I don’t have much interaction.
So this post is more of an open discussion than expert advice.
I have learned some from hundreds of conversations I have had with moms regarding their kids and the challenges they face to get their kids to eat healthy and get moving. Kids are obviously highly impressionable and watch what you and those around you are doing. So if you want to raise healthy fit kids, you must lead by example. How can you expect them to want to be active, if they see you on the couch watching 2 hours of TV every night? How can they expect to not crave fast food, when you are taking them to McDonalds every time you are out and about? How are your kids suppose to eat fruits and vegetables, if you don’t have them readily available and if you don’t eat them in front of your kids?
A couple days ago I put on a bootcamp for about 100 first-graders. The kids were awesome and so excited and I couldn’t keep them from wanting to run around and exercise. There was about 98% participation and all the kids left very sweaty. We talked about the importance of exercise and all the kids were very passionate about it. I asked the kids what were some bad foods and the kids listed off lots of sugary and fatty processed foods. I then asked what are some healthy foods and they mostly listed fruits and vegetables. My favorite answer came from a little boy, he said, “wild caught fish.” Somebody is teaching that boy right! 🙂 The kids seemed very well informed and understand good from the bad.
A couple weeks ago I talked about the lack of involvement and participation in the 8th graders I taught, this was the exact opposite of the 1st graders. It is interesting, somewhere between 1st grade and 8th grade, the coolness factor takes hold and kids begin to develop filters and no longer get as excited over fitness and eating healthy. I think the years between 1st and 8th grade are so important in shaping the level of health that the child has now, and how that child will grow into an adult.
I believe that one of the biggest reasons why we are experiencing such an obesity epidemic is the breakdown of families, and in particular, the lack of eating dinner together. Up until the 1960’s most families sat down each night and ate together. The mom would teach their kids how to cook and include them in food preparation. Since then, the art of sitting down and preparing a meal together has been lost. The 1970’s and 80’s saw a decrease in this and consequently those who are now in their 30’s and 40’s haven’t learned how to sit down and cook healthy nutritious meals. Now they have kids and spend even less time preparing and cooking food for the family. These kids don’t even stand a chance at learning the basics. Fast food, take-out, frozen chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and all the other processed crap becomes a staple.
I am very thankful that my family had sit down meals pretty much all of the way through high school. My mom would have each of us kids take a day of the week that we would be responsible for cooking. I had Friday nights and I was responsible for finding a recipe and helping my mom get the ingredients from the store and cook the meal. Not only did this teach me how to cook and what ingredients were in each recipe, but it gave me a sense of ownership towards the meal. I highly encourage you get your kids involved with the cooking once they are at an age that is appropriate. Sure you could make it a lot faster, and better, but teaching your kids about food and preparation is a skill that they need to learn. One semester of home economics in high school just doesn’t cut it.
I know one of the biggest challenges is sports. It probably isn’t practical for sit down meals every night, but at least a few nights a week, or eat a little bit later in the evening once the kids are done with their practices.
Regarding exercise, I recommend working out with your kids sometimes. I don’t encourage you to do this all the time, because you won’t get as good of a workout, but it is very important to get them to see you doing it and having fun. Kids just want to move around and play, so the more fun you can make it the better.