By: Dr. Linda Carson
When I was in college I had a professor of early childhood who lectured that “children grow predictably, but their development depends.” In other words, growth (or maturation) will unfold inevitably, but development depends on life experiences. This is a very powerful statement worth reflecting on by adults. Healthy child development depends on the living and learning environments that are created and nurtured by grownups. It is awe-inspiring to be reminded that child development actually depends on the many decisions made on behalf of children by parents, grandparents, teachers, or other significant adults in the life of a young person. We are literally responsible for helping a child develop preferences, resiliency, decision-making, self esteem, social skills, respect for others, healthy habits, and the list goes on and on.
So I’d like to suggest a healthy family ritual for 2016 that can impact the quality of life for all family members and have impact for years to come. Let’s embrace the 5, 2, 1, 0 campaign advocated by American Academy of Pediatrics and the Head Start National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness. The 5, 2, 1, 0 messages encourage:
- 5 or more fruits and veggies a day: A diet (meals and snacks) rich in fruits and veggies is associated with lower rates of chronic disease and may help prevent weight gain
- 2 hours or less screen time per day: Screen time promotes sedentary behavior, attention problems, and takes away from important and influential family time
- 1 hour or more of physical activity daily: Move more! Children and adults will experience health benefits by increasing and enjoying physical activity each day.
- 0 sugary beverages: Consumption of soda pop, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, powdered drinks, and even bottled sweetened tea is associated with cavities and excessive weight gain.
downloading our monthly calendars for more ideas for family fun. If you work with families share this information with them. If you do not have children in your home, use this goal setting worksheet for beginning to plan and document a new personal ritual. Be sure that your goals are small and achievable. If five fruits and veggies are unachievable to start, then challenge yourself with a number that can be do-able and increase as you adjust and enjoy. I suggest making your goals visible around your home on the fridge door, bathroom mirror, or a home bulletin board. Maybe you’ll decide to focus on just one of the messages and gradually add each of the others as you make progress. You can decide how to get started and how to use this information to reap health benefits that you will never regret.
So in 2016, let’s remember that children grow predictably, but their development depends---on YOU! And if health is wealth, let’s invest wisely. Happy, healthy New Year from your friends at Choosy Kids!
About the Author: Linda Carson, Ed. D, is the founder and CEO of Choosy Kids, LLC, and the Ware Distinguished Professor Emerita at West Virginia University. An award winning, nationally recognized expert, Dr. Carson has devoted her career to promoting healthy preferences for young children and the adults who make decisions on their behalf. Click here to learn more about Linda.