1. Morning Routine
A positive start to the day can make all the difference between having an okay day or great day! So how do you ensure that the morning starts off great. It starts with having a set routine and steps for everyone in the family. As a mother myself, I know how hectic mornings can be…and how giving directions to everyone often falls on mom’s shoulders.
Here’s a sample of a great stress-free morning routine that sets the family up for success each day:
- Set the coffee maker the night before. Waking up to the smell of coffee helps to get out of bed much easier.
- Take 5-10 minutes to fill out a gratitude journal. More on this and how kids can participate in this activity here
- Time for a workout? Family time doing some yoga stretches is a great way to wake your body up and create a fun healthy family habit. This is the only use of screentime I would recommend in the morning. Other than watching a workout – screens slow everyone down and more often than not push everyone off schedule!
- Everyone gets ready! Set a timer or for older kids maybe play a set playlist and everyone needs to be ready by a certain song. Each person should be responsible for first making their bed, then putting on the clothes they laid out earlier in the week! For young kids, a visual chart is a great tool to help them remember the steps to completing their ‘get ready routine’. Hint: when young children make the bed, it often doesn’t look “made” (to adult standards). That’s okay! This is about creating healthy habits! Not perfect ones. As they become older and more capable you can increase your standards and ask more of them. Remember to praise the effort – not just the results!
- Finish off the morning routine with a healthy breakfast. This may mean a healthy smoothie for your family or maybe a hearty bowl of oatmeal. In order to limit the number of dishes, I like the idea of making a big batch of your family’s favorite breakfast early on in the week and reheating as needed.
- Give yourself a 10-15 minute buffer before you need to be out the door! This buffer allows you to go through the morning with less stress and allow flexibility without stress when something pops up and inevitably interrupts the flow.
2. Healthy Snacking
Ah beloved snack time! I swear my kids have, at some point in their lives, lived solely off of snacks instead of mealtime. But when possible, I’ve seen better results with eating meals with having healthy snacking habits. What do I mean by healthy snacking habits?
- Eat on a schedule. By eating at set times we’re teaching our bodies to be hungry/anticipate food at those times. By following a set snack schedule – we can avoid kids getting too hungry off schedule or hitting snack time and having nothing prepared.
The other big bonus to eating on a schedule is we’re no longer having snacks too close to dinner time. This means hungrier eaters at dinner time who are willing to try more and eat more!
2. Preparation is key! My favorite snack to offer kiddos is plain fruit and vegetables!. Of all the snacks it’s the one they can eat the most of and not fill up right away, has tons of nutrients, and isn’t stuffed with added sugars/dyes/fats. If you don’t have a veggie-lover try offering a dip (ranch or hummus) to make vegetables tastier or serve the vegetables in a fun way! If you’re concerned about how to offer vegetables to your picky eater, check out this article on picky eaters.
I’ve seen parents create a healthy snack drawer in the fridge for your child to access on their own. Or maybe you want to monitor their snacking and create the snack station a little higher in the fridge. Either way – be sure to cut off snacking an hour or two before dinner. If your child complains of hunger offer a glass of water! Thirst is often mistaken for hunger.
Hint: your child will not starve waiting an hour for dinner time (though they often act like it!). So while they may be complaining of hunger incessantly – remember they will be okay waiting for dinner. Read that again. THEY WILL BE OKAY. And they might even eat better because they are hungry…I don’t know about you but broccoli always tastes better when I’m hungry for dinner!
Now with that being said, I know how hard it is to deal with crying and whining kiddo while you’re trying to get dinner ready. So when we talk preparation it’s not just food that needs to be prepped. Set your child up with an activity to keep them busy and mind preoccupied while you get dinner ready! This helps decrease the stress of whining and likelihood of giving in to eating
3. Family Traditions
Maybe it’s not your typically thought of “healthy” habit, but I think that bonding time as a family is a fantastic way to connect and keep the lines of communication open – which creates and maintains healthy relationships!
- Have a standing family game night. Maybe it’s once a week or maybe it’s a monthly event. Ways to make it special and stress-free – serve dinner charcuterie style (charcuterie pizza? Charcuterie dessert board? Have your child help cut up and prep the board of food!). Enjoy the same game each game night or start up a community game trading group! Make it social by hosting a game night and inviting your child’s friends – a great way of getting to know the kids and families of those your child interacts with.
- Create a family tradition. Maybe it’s a Saturday morning tradition of grabbing breakfast tacos at your favorite spot and then heading to the library. Or Friday nights heading out onto Lake Austin and boating over the Ski Shores for dinner. It could be as common and daily as a secret family handshake! Our family has our Rose and Thorn activity as a daily tradition we do that also encourages healthy communication.
These special family routines/habits can make even the simplest activities like getting dinner feel special and like “our family traditions”.
3. Traditions that include the whole family are great but it’s also beneficial to have some one-on-one time with your individual children and/or with your spouse. For date night – drop your kids off for your standing date night at Austin Kids Retreat with yours truly and explore what the city of Austin has to offer! Maybe you have a tradition of visiting a new restaurant every Friday, visiting city favorites like Jaws on the Lake or Esther’s Follies on 6th Avenue, checking out a new activity like Urban Axes for some axe throwing, or maybe date night is exploring the unique wall art scattered throughout the city like Austin’s iconic “I love you so much” sign! Make it unique and yours.
P.S. One-on-one dates don’t have to just be for spouses. In this post, we highlight the different love languages of children. If your child’s love language is quality time then consider taking your child out for date night! Maybe it’s date night/day with mom and dad or maybe it’s some special one-on-one time! It could be as casual as taking that child out for an adventure hike, Movie-Monday, or daddy-daughter dressing up for a fancy night out at Chick-Fil-A. These little moments mean the world to all little ones,s but are especially savored by those whose love language is spending time with you.
4. Family days participating and joining in the community are great ways to foster healthy relationships with your neighbors and bond over fun (and often free activities!)
4. Weekly/Daily Physical Activity
Do you know most young children learn simply by watching you? So the best thing you can do for their physical well-being and setting your child up for long term healthy success is to lead by example…or better yet create a bonding activity and do a family workout together!
- Have a weekly family game of soccer or your desired sport at the park or in the backyard. Playing as a family team teaches teamwork skills, hand-eye coordination, and is a great way to get the heart pumping and big smiles for all.
- Tip: Get the community involved! Set up a recurring family league at your local park!
- Create healthy daily habits by incorporating a family walk into your schedule. This can be as convenient as walking as a family to school drop-offs/pick-ups or maybe a 10-minute walk after dinner time. Bad weather? Challenge your child to a race after dinner. See if eating healthy foods makes them faster 😉
- Family yoga time anyone? There are plenty of YouTube videos to test out but one I always recommend for young kids is Cosmic Yoga. Find this yoga series on Amazon Video or YouTube. This series is quick videos with interactive stories that relate to the yoga poses. Maybe not challenging enough for older kids but definitely a great option for parents with younger kids who may not have the attention span or physical ability to keep up with harder videos.
Family yoga time anyone? There are plenty of YouTube videos to test out but one I always recommend for young kids is Cosmic Yoga. Find this yoga series on Amazon Video or YouTube. This series is quick videos with interactive stories that relate to the yoga poses. Maybe not challenging enough for older kids but definitely a great option for parents with younger kids who may not have the attention span or physical ability to keep up with harder videos.
- Not into yoga? There are other workout type video options to check out. Dance routines to follow – freeze dance – or more advanced workout circuits the family can do. Make it a friendly competition to keep their interest!
- Participate in local marathons/runs. We live in a fantastic community in Austin, Texas called Steiner Ranch. Within our community we often have running/biking events the whole family can participate in. For example, coming up in Steiner is the Run the Ranch 5K Kids and Family Fun Run. For those in Austin but not in the Steiner Ranch- Four Points community, there are other options for family runs such as the upcoming Spartan Kids Race. This race allows your child to get muddy and have fun! Extend the excitement of participating in a big race like this by setting up “training days” with family/friends!
Remember – it takes more than a few days to implement any kind of habit! In fact, even the belief of 21 days to change a habit is a little off according to this article.
Have grace for yourself and allow flexibility in your schedule while you implement these healthy family habits! By setting your expectations to be flexible you will be better mentally prepared for things not to go your way – and won’t feel the stress!