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Parenting healthy & active children

He kaupapa whakamatua o ngā tamariki hauora

As a parent, there's a lot you can do to raise healthy and active children.

Be a great role model

We are our children's greatest role models. Your children will generally do what you do, and what you do will become their normal behaviour.

Here are some ideas of what you can do to be a great role model.

Teach children to eat well

There are several things you can do to teach children to eat well.

Be patient if they don't like a food

Fussy eaters can be frustrating for parents. It's tempting to focus on negative things such as a child refusing to eat the food you've prepared for them. It's important that it doesn't become a power struggle. See Fussy eaters for information about how to cope with this.

Acknowledge your child's feelings

If they get frustrated or upset, you could say something like, "I can see you're upset about not liking the carrots, but thanks for trying them. I appreciate that."

Set a good example by enjoying mealtimes

Take your time eating your food.

Offer a variety of food

This is how children decide what they like. We don't all like the same food.

Loosen up some of the dinner table rules

Mealtimes can often be focussed on the rules rather than on enjoying the food and the time together. For example, some parents insist that children eat all the food on their plate. It's more important that they try the food.

Make mealtimes fun

Take the attention off the food and onto creating real memories for your children. Often we have rituals around food that we remember from our own childhoods and these are important. You're creating the same for your children.

During meal times ask them what are three great things that happened to them during the day. Let everyone take a turn. Children enjoy these conversations at the dinner table.

Pay attention to the positive

Praise your children for trying new things, making healthy choices or enjoying their food.

Allow food exploration

When our children are little, it's important that they explore their food. This can be messy, but very meaningful for them and their relationship with food. As children get older, help them to keep exploring food. You can do this by including them in preparing meals, planning meals, getting lunch boxes ready, making shopping lists, picking fruit or vegetables from the garden, and supermarket shopping.

Reward your child with treats other than with food

If children associate positive memories with sweet food, they'll want more. There are many other ways to reward children.

Create a vegetable garden together

If you have the time and energy, a small vegetable garden is great to create with children. They learn about food preparation and the science of food. See the links below for ideas.

Teach children to be active

Just as we teach our children about their relationship with food, we also teach them about their relationship with physical activity.

Here are some ideas to teach them to be active.

Also see Ideas for keeping kids active.

Parenting support

Your child may behave in ways you find difficult to manage. See the Parenting section for information about child behaviour and what community support, including parenting programmes, is available. Many of these programmes are free. You can also talk to your GP or practice nurse. They will give you advice or refer you to a parenting programme.

Other things to keep in mind

Spend time with your children. As well as the ideas above, you can do things like play a game or read to them. Spending time with your children is really important to them, no matter what their age.

Children can be bullied over what they have in their lunch box. Take note if your child tells you they are being bullied, or you suspect they are. You can find some resources that can help in Bullying (for children and their parents).

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Tips to help your child be healthy & active

Written by Family Adviser, All Right? Wellbeing Campaign. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created October 2016.

Page reference: 302415

Review key: HIHEC-62690