Activity/Craft,  Family

How to teach children healthy habits through play

We all develop habits early in life – both good and bad. Some of these we grow out of by the time we reach adulthood, others we hold onto for better or worse! If you’re looking to develop healthy habits in your children, there’s no time like the present. The earlier you teach them, the better – especially if they’re at an age where they’re still learning about the world around them. 

One of the main ways children learn is through play. Both structured and unstructured play will help build essential skills from physical to cognitive and emotional. 

Here are some healthy habits to teach your children through different types of play.

 Outdoor play – teach your children how to be active

There’s no better way to get your kids out in the sun and exploring their surroundings than by taking them outdoors. With plenty of room and natural surroundings to run and explore, outdoor play teaches them different ways to be active. 

Let them explore new environments by going for walks or kid-friendly hikes at the local park or on hiking trails. This way they can learn about their local area and what their bodies are capable of doing. 

You can also teach them to be active through outdoor sports. While joining a team sport is great, this can also be as simple as kicking a ball with them, running a friendly race together, or playing with outdoor game sets like chess, golf, or even ten-pin bowling.

As well as helping your kids stay active and healthy, outdoor play provides other benefits, such as improving motor skills and muscle strength, giving your children a sense of independence, and getting them away from screens for a while. 

Doll play – teach your children how to express their emotions

Dolls are a classic toy for a reason. Generations of children have grown up with a much-loved doll by their side, acting more as a trusted friend and confidant than a plastic toy. From their favourite Disney character to a stuffed animal, or even their very own baby to look after – there are a range of dolls and accessories for every child. 

If you’ve ever seen a child play with dolls, you’ll know that all they need is their imagination. Not only will they come up with their own scenarios to role play, but they’ll also mimic emotions and responses.  

You might find that some kids role play a conversation or even an argument they’ve had with their parents using dolls. This can help them understand their own emotions, as well as their parents’ perspective.

Dolls not only help children express their emotions, but also bring out their nurturing side and encourage them to develop empathy for others.

 Costume play – teach your children how to socialise

While playing “dress-ups” is always fun, it’s also a great way to let a child’s imagination run wild. Dressing up gives your child the freedom to transform into any character and create a story for themselves. Playing with other children is also the perfect opportunity for them to develop crucial social skills like sharing, cooperation and problem solving. 

You can teach kids how to socialise through costume play by either buying or making them an outfit of choice, joining in on their costume play and encouraging their siblings to join in too, or by setting up a dress-up playdate with their friends.

Pretend play – teach your children cooking and healthy eating habits

There are many other types of pretend play that teach your children healthy habits. Kids can learn basic cooking, wellness and healthy eating habits through play kitchen, supermarket or food-based playsets. 

Kitchen playsets come with a variety of appliances to teach them how to cook in a safe environment, helping prepare them for using the real thing when they’re older. Alternatively, you can teach kids how to do their grocery shopping and buy healthy foods with a supermarket playset, or about healthy foods with food-based playsets.

Constructive play – teach your children patience

Constructive play, like arts and crafts or building blocks, can teach your children many things, such as being creative, using their imagination, and being resourceful. There’s also one important healthy habit kids can learn: how to be patient.

Whether your child is putting together their own Lego city, or building from their favourite film Lego kits take time – especially when blocks are being dropped or falling. With arts and crafts, depending on what masterpiece they want to create, glue may need to dry or set at some point, or they may want to build something that can’t be done in one sitting.

It’s important to help your child out as they develop their patience, encouraging them to keep building and creating and taking a photo of their masterpiece when they’re done to instil a sense of achievement. 

By engaging in all these different types of play, you can teach your children healthy habits that they’ll be able to stick with throughout their lives, in a safe and fun way. Both you and your children will relish spending time together now, and they’ll thank you in the future for teaching them healthy habits.

Rachael is a 27 year old mum to 5 year old Luke and baby Oscar. She lives in England, slap bang on the border of Surrey and Hampshire. She writes about family life, crafts, recipes, parenting wins(and fails), as well as travel, days out, fashion and living the frugal lifestyle.

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