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Routines to Boost Kids' Health

Do you wish your baby would just sleep through the night, already? Or that your kids would just eat their vegetables, without the fuss. Or that you could avoid fighting about screen use? As parents, we all want to raise healthy, happy, and stable kids. We also want to get a good night's sleep, and eat a peaceful dinner, and get along with our kids rather than constantly nagging or yelling at them. While no plan is fail-proof, one of the best investments of time and energy that you can make is coming up with some solid family routines.

Studies support that consistent mealtime, bedtime, and screen time routines are associated better nutrition, decreased risk of childhood obesity, improved child sleep (and parental sanity!), decreased risk-taking behaviors in teens, and overall better health.

4 Steps to Starting a New Routine

If you’re interested in testing out a new routine and see how it works for your family, here's a 4-step plan to help you get started:

1) Focus. Is it sleep you are trying to improve? Need mealtimes to be less stressful? Want to keep screen time in check? All of the above? Start with one focus and new routine at a time. Then, once your new routine becomes a habit, build in another new routine.

2) Come up with your plan. What routine do you want to start to help reach your goals? Here are a few examples to help you get started.

A Mealtime Example. A mealtime routine might include a family meal at 6:30pm on weekdays where the whole family sits together at the kitchen table without any devices or distractions. During this time, each family member shares the best and worst parts of their days, and family members take the next 20 minutes to eat together and reconnect with each other.

A Bedtime Example. A successful bedtime routine for a 5-year-old may start at 7pm each night. It begins with a bath and 5-minutes of play time, followed by putting on pajamas and spending 15 minutes reading with a parent in a quiet room, with “screens” off and out of reach. The parent may then sing a short song and say “good night” to the child, remind him that she expects him to go to sleep and not get out of bed until the morning comes, tuck the child into bed, give him a kiss on the forehead, and turn on the night light before leaving the room.

A Screentime Example. Many kids spend hours in front of screens playing video games, watching TV, and staring at a computer. Break this routine and create a new one by implementing a new screentime rule. Plan ahead by choosing a set time of day in which the screen is allowed, say from 3:30-4:30pm, or only on weekends. Consider coming up with a plan together as a family using the American Academy of Pediatrics’ family media use plan.

3) Put it on your schedule. Choose a time of day that the routine will happen, put it on your schedule, and stick to it.

4) Track your progress. Hold your family accountable by keeping track of all of the days that you stuck with the new routine. Before you know it, your family will have a new healthy habit.

If you’ve successfully started a new healthy routine (or even if you tried and didn’t go so well), I’d love to hear from you. Please share your experiences and tips!


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