5 Simple Ways to Help Kids Stay Healthy in Quarantine

I’ve talked a lot about how obesity can increase the danger from COVID-19. And while the virus affects children and adults very differently, underlying conditions like obesity raise the risk across all ages. COVID-19 may be with us for the foreseeable future, so now is a critical time to develop healthier habits and improve resilience with your kids.

If you’re already encouraging behavior like social distancing, handwashing and wearing masks while out, consider adding these tips to your family’s COVID-19 safety plan.

1. Follow the 5-2-1-0 rule.

Obesity experts have a useful system for encouraging healthy habits in children. Every day, eat 5 servings of fruits or vegetables, restrict screen time to 2 hours or less, play actively for at least 1 hour, and drink 0 sugary beverages like soda. But while we’re socially distancing, a couple of those rules can be especially tricky. Designate time for active play whenever possible. Then after they’re done any online learning for the day, make sure they spend at least an hour playing or exercising before they switch over to TV or videogames. 

2. Stick to a sleep schedule.

Without places to be every morning, it’s easy for kids to develop bad sleep habits – after all, who’s going to notice if they’re a bit tired in their online classes? But lack of sleep is associated with unhealthy weight gain in infants, children and youth. Ensure they’re getting 10 hours of sleep each night by unplugging from screens at least two hours before bedtime and adding some light exercise like yoga or calisthenics to your family’s evening routine.

3. Cook together…

Kids are more likely to try healthier options if they had a hand in making them. Now is a great opportunity to explore new recipes and encourage young ones to understand exactly what goes into their food. They may even discover a new hobby and get a fun lesson in nutrition and portion sizes while they’re at it. Take time to talk about your ingredients and the nutrients in each. Then encourage them to share the results on social media and inspire their friends to do the same.

4. … and play together.

Whenever possible, avoid just assigning exercise to your kids. Instead, find activities the whole family can do together. Nature walks and bike rides are great ways to maintain social distance while outside. When indoors, family yoga, calisthenics or even dance-offs can get everyone involved for a quick 30-minute burst of activity. “Game-ify” your routine by tracking weekly achievable goals for the whole family, then reward success in a way that makes sense for your family. A little competition can be a big incentive for stir-crazy kids.

5. Lead by example.

While you’re encouraging healthier habits in isolation, don’t forget about yourself. Share your own accomplishments, take pride in the steps you’ve taken (no matter how small) and keep momentum going through consistent encouragement. Empower your kids to hold you accountable for your habits as well and use constructive language when anyone’s struggling. As you hear so often these days, “We’re all in this together.” It’s just as true when it comes to preventing and tackling obesity.