small child drinking milk out of mug

Parents are the best guides to helping children develop lifelong healthy habits!

Research suggests the earlier, the better for parents to start supporting activities and practices that promote health and well-being. Here are 6 tips for helping to develop healthy habits as a family.  

1. Be an active family

Children learn healthy long-term life habits from you! Plan a variety of regular exercise and outdoor activities with your children. Make the activities fun with games and goals. After-school sports can also be a great opportunity for children to develop strong habits of routine exercise.  

2. Create a supportive environment

Stability, support and consistent patterns in your household will help to promote an environment ideal for developing healthy habits. Create routine schedules and meal patterns, and engage in mind-stimulating and physical activities often. Aim for flexibility within a supportive environment to give children the opportunity to participate in healthful behaviors.  

3. Optimize healthy habits

Children should have a lead role in planning family meals, shopping and preparing food. Work on creating balanced healthy meals with flexibility. Create warm friendly mealtimes with your whole family whenever possible. Other healthy habits such as exercise can also be reinforced by letting your child lead and by participating as a whole family.  

little girl with Down syndrome laughing with parents

Check out additional parenting resources!

View our expanded list of recommended parenting websites, books and other resources organized by topic.

4. Be flexible.

Children’s appetites fluctuate throughout their development. Your role is to ensure nutritious meals are available and to model and support desired behaviors, but let your child lead with how much they want to eat. You can encourage trying all the foods on their plate, but avoid forcing children to finish all of them. Long-term negative associations with foods can be more detrimental than missing their veggies at one meal.  

5. Aim for balance

Avoid using food as a reward system or labeling some foods as forbidden. These actions may seem like ways to limit undesirable behaviors or encourage desired behaviors, but they can cause children to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. Often children will have the opposite reaction to these practices, such as seeking out forbidden foods. Excessive control over children’s diets and mealtimes can lead to children potentially becoming overweight.  

6. Eat together

Families who aim to consistently eat together multiple nights a week can feel closer and more bonded. Engage in fun conversations and topics that engage all members of the family. Time together also gives you the opportunity to encourage and model desired behaviors, such as drinking more water and eating at a slower pace.  

adoptive parents receiving parent counseling with their adopted child

Receive Post Adoption Coaching & Education

All parents encounter challenges as their children grow up. And sometimes, issues may arise that leave you uncertain as to how best to respond. But not every issue requires therapy or counseling. The PACE program is here to help during those times.

Stories Up Next

All Stories