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10 Healthy Habits to Teach Toddlers at Home

September 15, 2021

by Carolyn Mitchell, guest contributor

As all good parents know, it’s never too early to start instilling good habits in your little one. By introducing certain practices and routines while your child is still a toddler, you’ll increase the odds that they’ll carry these healthy habits well into adulthood. Here are 10 healthy habits you can start to teach your toddler today.

1. Neatness & Cleanliness

For toddlers, being invited to engage in adult tasks can be a lot of fun, and cleaning up around the house can actually be turned into an activity they enjoy. Demonstrate the ease and value of picking up toys, organizing books, or putting away items in the kitchen after cooking. By showing your child that keeping things neat doesn’t have to be a terrible chore, they’ll be far more likely to keep up habits of organization and cleanliness as they grow older. 

2. A Love of Learning

Few lifelong habits are more crucial than a passion for learning. Start young by reading books to your child, and seek out early childhood education options to keep them intellectually stimulated from a young age. You can also listen to educational podcasts together, and make visits to the local library to pick out books they’ll enjoy. 

3. Curiosity About the Natural World

Hand-in-hand with a love of learning, one of the best habits you can instill in your toddler is curiosity about the natural world. Family field trips to natural sites, excursions to state and local parks, or even a walk through the neighborhood with a flower guidebook can help spark your child’s natural curiosity. 

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4. Healthy Sleep Patterns

For children and parents alike, few habits are more essential than a good sleep. Set a routine, with a dedicated wind-down period about an hour before bedtime. Create a calming environment for your child to sleep, and invest in a quality blanket that’s neither too hot nor too cold to help your child sleep through the night.

5. Healthy Eating Behaviors

The first years of a child’s life are extremely formative in learning healthy dietary habits like what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat. Lead by example, and introduce your child to a diverse and mindful diet with appropriate portion sizes on a sustainable routine schedule. Of course, planning family meals and using this as a time for connection as well as healthy eating habits is also a plus (and bonus points for cooking together!).

6. Meditation

While extended meditation may be a bit too conceptually advanced for younger kids, toddlers can begin with a recorded meditation (many apps offer content geared specifically toward kids), a focused minute of silence, setting an intention for their day, finding opportunities to express gratitude, or engaging in mindful guided breathing exercises. 

7. Coherent Verbal Expression

Learning healthy self-expression is an important social skill throughout childhood and adulthood. Set the tone by talking to your little one calmly, clearly, and articulately, and responding with positive encouragement when they do the same. 

8. Expressing Anger Healthily

Together with healthy verbal expression, expressing anger in a healthy way is a vital life skill. Avoid rewarding tantrums, and give your child the vocabulary for clearly and calmly articulating what’s wrong. Sensory tactics like squishing dough, jumping up and down, and popping bubble wrap are also great ways to help toddlers healthily express their emotions.

9. Good Dental Hygiene

Instilling good dental care habits in your child will set the stage for excellent dental hygiene later in life. Engage in proper tooth brushing habits with your child, and be sure to schedule regular pediatric dental checkups (the American Dental Association recommends starting this habit within six months from the appearance of your child’s first tooth, and no later than within your child’s first year).

10. Helping Others

As is true of so many habits, children learn best by example, and demonstrating kindness and helpfulness toward others is one of the best habits you can instill. Seek out family-friendly local volunteer activities, and teach your child how they can offer to help others with tasks within the household.

With these few simple tips – and by prioritizing healthy habits in your own life – you’ll be well on your way to encouraging your child toward a lifetime of good habits and success.

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