The How (and Why) Behind 8 Healthy Habits to Instill in Your Kids
Why We Should Wash Our Hands
What to do: Sprinkle some colored glitter on your child's damp hands, and have her rub them together until the glitter sticks. Then have her shake your hand, open the door, or play with some toys. Point out the trail of glitter "germs" that she's left behind. Afterward, ask her to wash her hands with just plain water to see how little of the glitter actually comes off. She'll find she needs to use lots of warm water and soap to truly get her hands clean.
What to say: "Even though you can't see them, germs stick to your hands and spread to everything you touch—just like glitter does. But glitter can't make you sick, and germs can. That's why it's so important to scrub your hands well."
Why We Should Wear a Seatbelt
What to do: Have your child choose a small plastic person or animal and a toy truck. Place the figure in the truck, then have your child send the vehicle skidding across the floor or into a wall. Point out how the plastic person or animal flew out of the truck. Now help your child strap the toy to the truck with a rubber band, tape, or string. Send it on its way again, and watch how the figurine stays put.
What to say: "Even though Mom and Dad are very careful drivers, there's always a chance the car will hit a bump or we'll have to stop suddenly. You always need to wear a seat belt. It'll keep you safely in your seat, just like this little guy needed you to strap him in to keep him safe."
Why We Should Eat Right
What to do: Tell your child the story of "The Three Little Pigs." Afterward, help him build "houses." For the first, use potato chips and small pieces of candy. Build the second house using apple slices and peanut butter. When you're finished, ask your child to huff and puff and see if he can blow the houses down.
What to say: "Did you see how easily the chip-and-candy house fell down? But the other one stayed up. Foods do the same thing for your body. If you eat healthy foods, like apples and peanut butter, your body will be strong. But if you eat too much junk food, like chips and candy, you'll be weak and won't have much energy."
Why We Should Cover Our Mouth
What to do: Have your child stand in front of a mirror and hold a tissue against the bridge of his nose, letting it hang loosely in front of his mouth. Tell him to make a few hearty coughs and then watch how the tissue blows out away from his mouth.
What to say: "When you cough or sneeze, you create a little bit of wind—and the wind carries any germs that are in your mouth or nose. You need to 'catch' those germs—so they don't spread to other people and make them sick—by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your hands. But if you do use your hands, wash the germs away with soap and water."
Why We Should Wear Sunscreen
What to do: UV-sensitive sun stickers (like Sun Signals) are yellow indoors but turn dark orange when they've been in the sun too long. Have your child take a sheet of the stickers and smear two or three with sunscreen lotion. Leave them outside for five hours on a sunny day, then check to see what's happened to them
What to say: "The sun made the stickers without sunscreen change colors—but it couldn't get through to the stickers that you coated with lotion. That happens to your skin. If you get too much sun, your skin will burn and change color. But if you protect it with sunblock, it'll stay the color it's supposed to be."
Why We Should Drink Water
What to do: Trim the ends off a celery stalk that's been sitting out for a few hours, and stand it upright in a glass of cool water. Add four or five drops of red food coloring to the glass, then let it sit overnight. The next day, take the celery stalk out of the water and gently peel back part of the skin. Point out to your child how the red dye has traveled from the bottom of the stalk to the top.
What to say: "Do you see how the dyed water climbed up the stalk? That's because the celery was too dry and needed a drink. It's like what happens when you've been running around and you're thirsty. You need water to keep your body healthy. The water travels from your mouth out to your fingers and down to your toes, just like it traveled from one end of the celery stalk to the other."
Why We Should Wear a Helmet
What to do: Enclose a small ball of clay, Play-Doh, or Silly Putty inside a plastic Easter egg. Let your child drop it, roll it around, or even drop a small book on it. Open the egg, and show your child how the clay stayed the same shape. Now take the clay out of the egg, and treat it the same way. Point out how quickly it gets banged up, flattens out, and changes shape.
What to say: "This plastic egg protects the clay the same way a helmet protects your head when you're riding your bike or scooter. If you were to fall off your bike when you weren't wearing a helmet, your head could get really beaten up—just like the clay did."
Why We Should Get Enough Sleep
What to do: Challenge your child to a staring contest, and use a stopwatch to see how long both of you can go without blinking. When you can't keep your eyes open any longer, talk about how good it feels to blink.
What to say: "Isn't it hard to keep your eyes open for that long? When you blink, you give your eyes a break. That's what sleep is like for your whole body: After a full day, it needs to rest—and that's why you need to go to bed on time. If you stay up late, you'll feel like your eyes did just before you blinked."