Hey fellow baby boomers, it’s finally summer! And while kids are happy to be out of school, mom and dad may now be back at work with COVID-19 restrictions lifting across the country. What’s a grandparent to do, but help out with the kiddos. Some of you may now be babysitting on a regular basis. Others (like me and my husband), just occasionally. 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 so you can have time to yourself, 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:
MONITOR SCREEN TIME
In light of the increased use of technology with children of all ages* , the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with updated recommendations for media use in 2020.
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
- Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline. *36% of American children under age 1 have interacted with a mobile device, 95% of teens have access to a smartphone; 45% of teens say they are online almost all the time.
Here are some other 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 paintbrush, 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 complete the task properly, 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. Then kids control how much they eat.
Here are some guidelines from ChooseMyPlate.gov to help develop healthy eating patterns in kids:
- 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 twenty 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. For more ideas to help little ones grow up healthy, reach out to me.