All parents want to do their best to raise healthy and happy children. However, this is easier said than done! With the flood of information available on the internet, in parenting books, and on TV - not to mention the opinions of friends and family added to the mix - it can be more confusing than ever to discern what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to raising your child.
The reality is, there will never be one straight answer, but there are common principles that create the foundation of giving your child a healthy upbringing. Here are five simple, but very important factors to consider.
The Department of Health recommends that children have around 180 minutes of physical activity spread through the day with at least 60 minutes of energetic play. Biking, running, football, swimming and skipping, are all great activities. Outdoor play is best where your child can play in nature.
Allow your child to get dirty and play in the mud and rain. Early exposure to germs protects the immune system from developing allergies and asthma and promotes a healthy gut bacterium.
Exposing children to pets in the home at a young age acts as a shield against allergic disease and asthma and it ensures a richness and diversity to their microbiome (Shreyas et al, 2019).
Even though children can be picky eaters, offer a variety of whole plant foods regularly (some children need exposure to a food 15-20 times before accepting it). Ensure your child has adequate calories through the day from fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes (including nuts & seeds). Soups/smoothies are a great way to sneak greens into their diet. Calcium fortified soymilk, quinoa, tahini, sweet potato, avocado, leafy greens, flaxseed oil, oatmeal, nuts (e.g. walnuts) and seeds (or butters), tofu, beans and lentils and fresh fruits are all excellent choices. Don’t forget a B12 supplement and vitamin D supplement (if inadequate sun exposure or under 6 months old and exclusively breastfed).
Numerous studies have shown that love and affection from their parents as a child results in emotionally happy and less anxious children. Furthermore, they have less depression and anxiety as adults and grow up happier and more compassionate than children who do not receive as much physical love and affection (Narvaez et al, 2019).