Did You Know?
Swimming builds endurance, strengthens all muscle groups, and is easy on joints and bones. Encourage your youngster to swim year-round with trips to an in-door community pool. He might take swim lessons or sign up for a winter league. Ideas: Join him in the pool and swim together, race against each other, or play tag.
Feeling Good About Sports
Participating in sports can build your youngster up...or drag him down. Make athletics a positive experience for him with these strategies:
- Keep games in perspective. At this age, sports should be about having fun and developing skills. Ask about his favorite part of practice or the most interesting play in the game, rather than focusing on his performance or the score.
- Encourage your child to set goals - but make sure the goals are realistic. He might aim to touch the ball three times during a game or to try a move that he's been working on.
- Avoid comments about your youngster's size or body. Concentrate on the friends he is making and the effort he is putting forth ("I love how you tried to get the rebound").
When you go to the grocery store, "shop the perimeter" first. The outside aisles are where you'll usually find fresh produce, healthy dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese), and fresh meats, chicken, and fish. fill your cart mostly with those items, and then get what you need from the middle of the store.
Try this fitness idea from Down Under. Have your children hop like kangaroos by jumping with both feet and holding their hands in front of their chests. They can race each other by hopping from one end of a room (or yard) to the other. Or they could take turns being the leader and play Follow the Kangaroo.
When your child bursts through the door after school or activities, she's probably hungry. Try these tips for healthy snacks that will give her the energy she needs to play and do homework.
Stock the kitchen
Whatever is in the house is what your youngster will eat - so shop with that in mind. Get interesting fruits and vegetables in different colors. Buy mango or peach salsa, and let your child dip in veggie sticks (carrot, celery, jicama). Stock popcorn to air pop (rather than getting less healthy microwave popcorn). Then, offer her choices. She'll have a say in what she eats, but she'll be choosing only from healthy foods.
Have a mini-meal
Breakfast or lunch foods can make a good snack. You could serve oatmeal with bananas and cinnamon or tuck scrambled eggs into a pita pocket. Or try individual pizzas on whole-wheat English muffins. Top each half with a little tomato sauce, shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese, and vegetables (sliced mushrooms, chopped onions), then bake until the cheese melts.
Build your own
Let your youngster get creative in the kitchen, and she'll be likely to eat the results. She can make kebabs by threading fruit (grapes, melon chunks) and cheese cubes onto toothpicks. Put out cookie cutters for her to cut sandwiches into fun shapes. Or she could spread cream cheese on rice cakes or apple slices and decorate them with raisins or dried cranberries.
Bounce and Spell
Put an active twist on your child's next spelling test study session. Get his word list and a tennis ball, then find a space indoors or go outside to play a few rounds of Spelling Bee Bounce.
Stand about 6 - 12 feet from your youngster, say a word from his list, and bounce the ball to him. As he says each letter, he bounces the ball to you and then you bounce it back to him. If he gets a letter wrong, say, "Oops, try again!" and he starts the word over.
Get creative in this game. He could spin around before bouncing the ball, or he could pretend to shoot it to you like a basketball free-throw.
Before you know it, he'll have mastered his entire spelling list - and gotten exercise along the way!
Did You Know?
Research shows that students who skip breakfast have shorter attention spans and don't do as well on tests. Make sure your youngster gets up in time to have a nutritious breakfast either at home or at school. Tip: If she's having trouble waking up early enough, move her bedtime back.
Find the right milk
Milk alternatives, such as soy, almond, rice, and coconut milk, are widely available today. That's good news for youngsters who can't have dairy. When choosing non-dairy milk, look for unsweetened varieties that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Kid favorites: Baked, not fried
In The Kitchen
Chicken nuggets and french fries are popular with children-and they can be nutritious if they're not actually fried. Rethink these favorites with the following healthy twists.
Chicken nuggets - cut 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces, and brush lightly with olive oil. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup whole-wheat bread crumbs, 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 tsp. Italian seasoning. Roll chicken in mixture to coat. Cook on a lightly greased baking sheet at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway through, until chicken is fully cooked.
French fries - Cut 3 medium russet potatoes into strips. Lightly coat two baking sheets with cooking spray. In a bowl, combine potatoes with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. chili powder (optional), 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Arrange on baking sheets, and place in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes (turning over after 15 minutes) or until crispy. Spread fries on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up excess oil.
Wake Up, Warm Up
Start your day with physical activity and help your sleepyhead wake up! Ask your youngster to create an active morning routine. for example, she might do 10 shoulder shrugs, 10 big arm circles, 6 lunges, and 5 toe touches before getting dressed. In the kitchen, she could do 10 jumping jacks and run in place for 1 minute before breakfast.
Get your child excited about helping in the kitchen by letting her dress the part. Find a large white button-down shirt she can wear like a chef's outfit. Have her write her name on a mailing label "Chef _____" and stick it on. Hand her a colorful spatula, and enjoy cooking togethe