Many Baby Boomers and seniors assist their children by babysitting grandkids on a regular basis. Although it may be tempting to plop little ones down with a bag of chips in front of a TV, cell phone or computer tablet, for their fitness–don’t do it!
Grandparents can play a key role in helping little ones develop healthy habits. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind the next time you babysit:
Get Them Away from their Screens
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting screen time to 1 – 2 hours per day for kids. According to AAP, the average child today spends seven hours per day in these sedentary behaviors, which can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, eating and sleeping disorders and obesity.
Here are some ways you can help:
• It’s important for children to spend time on outdoor activities, reading, hobbies and using their imagination in free play. We did it when we were kids, so grab a Frisbee, a paint brush or sheet (to make an indoor tent, of course!) and play with them!
• Encourage your grandchildren to engage with you in daily chores. They can help sort or fold laundry, carry light bags of groceries or individual items into the house, or scoop out dry pet food for your furry companions.
• Be creative, show kids how to properly complete the task, and let them build self-confidence while promoting healthy habits.
Avoid Food Fights!
When it comes to food, remember, you’re the responsible adult! Kids may request food they see advertised on TV, but you’re in control of two key parameters: when food is available, and which foods are available. Kids decide how much they eat.
Here are some guidelines to help develop healthy eating patterns in kids from ChooseMyPlate.gov:
• Focus on the meal and each other. Children mimic your behaviors, so model good eating habits and a willingness to try new foods.
• Offer a variety of healthy foods. Do this often, then let the kids choose how much they eat.
• Be patient! Children are notoriously slow eaters (I should know–I was a school foodservice director for almost 20 years!). Encourage them to finish eating during mealtime, and save leftovers for snacks (if appropriate). Don’t expect little ones to accept new foods right away–offer frequently and give just a taste at first.
• Let children serve themselves. Teach them to take small amounts initially, with more coming as needed!
• Let kids help in meal planning, shopping and preparation, as much as possible.
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