When the kids have to stay home, parents and caregivers can help them start habits that benefit their physical and mental health.
Advisors: María Carmen Baquero Rodríguez, pediatrician
Luisa Fernanda Correa Pérez, psychologist, master’s degree in Neuropsychology
Implementing healthy routines at home with children is an issue parents must handle with commitment and ingenuity, and above all lead by example. It is not easy, but it is possible, especially during vacation or unusual times where you spend many hours with your family in the same space. Because of this, pediatrician María Carmen Baquero Rodríguez, professor of Medicine for the CES undergraduate program, and psychologist Luisa Fernanda Correa Pérez, coordinator of the post graduate program in Neuropsychopedagogy for Children at the Luis Amigó Catholic University and who holds a master’s degree in Neuropsychology, give us their recommendations.
- Quality nutrition. Establish and respect family eating times. Try new options, set aside fun moments to plan together what you are going to prepare. Offer a variety of seasonal foods or things that are available at home. Do everything you can so that this does not become a stressful time for complaints and battles to get the kids to finish their meal.
- Know how to balance. Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. “Follow a rule that the Ministry of Health calls five per day: three fruits and two vegetables that are different colors. And change them up,” states the pediatrician. Decrease consumption of saturated fats and sugary drinks, and encourage drinking water. It is also important to reduce the intake of salt, sauces, and processed meats like sausages.
Food has to be visually appealing, and a nice presentation of fruits and vegetables will help the kids.
- Physical activity. Up until two years of age, it is important to spark interest in neurosensory activities: everything related to motricity, for example using objects with different textures. For kids between three and six years old, parents can do physical activities like games for a minimum of 30 minutes two times per day. For older children, positively reinforce the idea of staying active.
- Good rest. It is crucial for kids to have enough rest so that their mind and body relax. Children who are breastfeeding, from zero to two years old, can sleep between 12 and 14 hours divided throughout the day. From three to five years old, the WHO recommends from 10 to 13 hours of sleep, including naps. From six to twelve years old, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 9 to 12 hours. Having time to rest after lunch is also recommended.
- Hygiene and organization. During the holidays there are kids who go all day without bathing or brushing their teeth. The pediatrician states that in order to overcome these situations, having an example is key. They need to internalize a routine that their parents follow: get up, bathe and brush their teeth, organize their room, help with cleaning (depending on their age), do homework if they have any, and then they can do fun activities.
- Limit screen time. Even though they become entertainment strategies, screen time should be limited because it can encourage inactivity and cause overstimulation, especially videogames. Another reason to limit screen time is to prevent addictive behaviors and problems interacting with others when they go back to their normal environment.
- Play and do things together as a family. It is important for adults to understand how important playing is to children. It is an activity that facilitates the development of social and cognitive abilities. Playing with children strengthens emotional bonds between family members. Also, it lets them use creativity with the objects they play with and when playing in different areas of the house.
- Time for reading. It is essential to establish time to read every day, especially for younger children, because reading stories helps them develop their imagination and emotional attachments. This activity, which plays an important role in different environments, also helps establish routines.
- Expressing and managing emotions. Psychologist Correa Pérez states that sometimes we tell ourselves that, since the kids are on vacation, we do not have to stick to a schedule or establish limits or have rules at home. This is related to the need to work on tolerating frustration, and “it is done by not giving in to everything the child wants. It is also important for them to assume some responsibilities at home.”
- Mental health in sight, always. Both for children and adults, working from home, virtual education, or having holidays at unusual times are conditions that require adaptation and can cause certain tensions among family members. It is good to have spaces for emotional expression and dialogue in order to improve coexistence and encourage support in any situation that may arise.
Related: Kids, have fun at home!