Healthy habits start very young, and the choices parents and caregivers make for babies and toddlers can provide a good start. From babyhood to childhood, using large muscles is important to learning, and children learn a lot about the world by using their whole bodies. Of course, encouraging good nutrition, making sure your child gets plenty of rest, and participating in physical activities together builds healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
JUMPING AND MOVEMENT
Your child will be very proud of himself when he starts to walk, whether he's 11 months or 18 months. Help him practice coordination skills by taking him to the park or backyard where he can walk, climb, and discover the world around him. Keep in mind that this new independence can be a little overwhelming to your toddler and he might need to be held or cuddled after a big day at the park.
- Encourage your child to think of new ways to move. Praise him when he shows initiative in these new areas.
- Say, "Let's go up, down." See if your child understand the words and acts them out with his body.
- Repeat action words in a rhythmic fashion.
Children like to do what their parents do, and will want to use your cooking utensils to imitate what you are doing. Provide your child with safe cooking tools and be sure to share some of the healthy food you're cooking. You might want to give a toddler a special dishpan of utensils.
- Encourage your children to take turns and share. State whose turn is next.
- Let children touch and taste a small amount of your healthy food and describe how it feels, tastes and/or smells.
- Give your child several bowls and spoons to play with as you cook. Let your child stir what you are cooking.
GOING TO THE PARK
Toddlers love the wide-open spaces in the park to explore what their bodies can do. Outdoor play gives your toddler the opportunity to be busy and explore space freely.
- Encourage your child to take turns with or share equipment, toys or adult attention.
- Label activities as you do them on the playground.
- Swing your child and encourage her to tell you what she enjoys and what she wants to do next.
Walkers are developing language and sometimes feel frustrated that they can't say all they would like. They will often say words and phrases over and over.
- Encourage pride in taking care of a plant.
- Ask your child to find flowers, trees, plants and grass in books, magazines or in the yard.
- Have your child fill a cup with soil and poke a bean seed in it. Help your child water the seed and talk about the changes as it sprouts and grows.