12 Oct Six Simple Tips to Support Children’s Health Habits
Some of the biggest health habits we can pass onto children can start with small messages.
As a Dietitian working with families and children (or Tribe Members as I like to call them!) I know how crucial it is to pass on self-sufficient tools to support developing physical and mental health habits.
Here are six simple messages we should be teaching Tribe Members to help improve their health:
GET PLENTY OF SLEEP
Lack of sleep can cause Tribe Members to feel sluggish, forgetful and tired. These can all lead to lack of concentration and difficulty learning.
The average 5 to 9 year-old needs between 10 and 11 hours’ sleep a night. Talk to your class about how many hours sleep they get a night, and discuss how they can establish healthy bedtime routines. For example, going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, even at the weekend.
Many children don’t drink enough fluid especially when at school. When hydrated, children have greater cognitive function, better visual attention, improved accuracy in motor skills such as handwriting, and more concentration which helps them to perform better. Children are less likely to recognise the early signs of dehydration and may need gentle encouragement to remind them to drink. Encourage your class to get up and have a drink of water regularly throughout the day – all Tribe Members should be aiming to drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day.
ACHIEVE 60 MINUTES OF ACTIVITY A DAY
A lack of exercise is thought to be as deadly as obesity. Tribe Members need to do an activity that gets them hot and sweaty and raises their heart rate for 60 minutes every day – this can be broken down into chunks of 10 or 20 minutes. Teach your pupils that physical activity can be fun and encourage them to run around the playground at break time and promote active travel to and from school.
CUT DOWN ON SCREEN TIME
Children are spending more and more time in front of a screen, either a TV, computer, iPhone or tablet. Experts recommend children should spend no more than 2 hours a day in front of a screen – children’s bodies are designed to be active and keep moving. Encourage your pupils to monitor how long they are spending in front of a screen, and to get up regularly and move around.
ESTABLISH A REGULAR EATING PATTERN – EAT BREAKFAST EVERY DAY
Tribe Members that do not eat regularly may be relying on sugary food and drinks to fuel themselves throughout the day. This can cause their blood sugar levels to rise quickly, and then fall quickly. These swings in blood sugar can cause irritability, poor behaviour and difficultly concentrating. Tribe Members that are not having a regular intake of slow release starchy carbohydrate may also crave foods high in fat and sugar which are often high in calories.
Only 3% of children under 16 are regular smokers, however 18% have tried smoking and 40% of regular smokers began smoking before 16 years of age. It is important to continue to teach Tribe Members about the dangers of smoking to their health.
If you’re inspired to get your school improving their health, then we are here to help you achieve your PSHE health and wellbeing needs. Get your free sample of the Healthy Minds Lesson in a Box (limited offer available until the 31st of October 2018). Every box includes games, fun ideas and resources to help your students adopt habits that will support their mental health.
Heather – Dietitian
Heather has worked as a Dietitian for a number of years both in NHS hospitals and the community and Public Health settings. Her hobbies include running, trying out new healthy recipes and summers spent travelling with her family.