10 ways to engage children in wellbeing
Posted by Justine Clarabut on 15 September, 2022
It’s never too early in life to start learning about mental, physical and emotional health and wellbeing. A healthy and positive lifestyle for children is one that promotes physical, mental, social, emotional, and environmental health and wellbeing. It lays down a firm foundation for later in life. Children who enjoy a healthy lifestyle have a zest for life which helps them to grow and develop; advancing their skill sets in all areas of learning.
Introducing wellbeing at an early age will help to:
- build resilience, empathy and kindness.
- establish coping techniques when faced with new, challenging or stressful situations.
- develop self-awareness
- awareness of other people’s needs and experiences
The 5 ways to wellbeing are a set of evidence-based steps that improve our mental health and wellbeing.
- keep active
- take notice
- keep learning
Trying to incorporate these into children’s everyday routines will help with a positive approach, the ability to get the most out of life and utmostly achieve optimal wellbeing
10 ways to engage children in welbeing
Below are ways to ensure the ‘five ways to wellbeing‘ are embedded in your children’s activities, downtime and daily life. And remember, play doesn’t stop when we become adults! It is an essential part of adult wellbeing too! 👇
1. Go outside (Active, Notice, Connect and Learn) Playing outside is one of the best activities for both children (and adults) that will promote good health and wellbeing. Not only is it great for physical fitness, stamina, balance and agility, it is also vital for good mental health. The great outdoors gives children the chance to explore and learn, take in their environment, and breathe in fresh air. There are so many activities that can be done outside such as, playing ball games, hide and seek, spotting wildlife, walking, climbing, running and so much more. Even just a short walk in the fresh air can do the world of good for the whole family. And it ticks 4 of the 5 ways of wellbeing 😀
2. Grow a plant (Learn, Notice) There is a positive association between growing plants and good mental health. You don’t have to be green fingered to teach your children how to garden, and you don’t necessarily need to have a garden. Growing plants in a pot on the windowsill or outside on a balcony are great ways for children to learn and observe. It also encourages patience as they wait for their newly planted seed(s) to grow!
3. Write down or say out loud 3 things you are grateful for (Notice, Give) In a world that seems to value overabundance, teaching gratitude can feel like an uphill battle. But despite the challenges we might face helping kids feel grateful can be worthwhile. Research shows that being grateful increases happiness which promotes a greater sense of wellbeing. Making gratitude a daily habit can encourage children to appreciate even the smallest things in life. Writing down 3 things they are grateful for every day or saying them out loud can help to refocus on the things that they have, not on what may be lacking or what their friends may have.
Try making a daily gratitude ritual at the dinner table. This is a great chance for everyone to reflect upon their day, and find three things to be grateful for. Not every day is good but there is always something to be grateful for and this helps children gain a little bit of perspective on life and learn to be appreciative.
4. Try a new recipe and practice mindful eating (Notice, Learn) With younger children, cooking together may require time, patience, and extra cleaning up but the benefits of cooking with kids are totally worth it. Creating meals can help build a child’s self-confidence and lay the foundation for healthy eating habits. One of the greatest benefits is that it can prevent fussy eaters as experimenting with different food develops an adventurous and varied taste palette. In addition, research shows that eating home-cooked food encourages children to consume less sugar and processed foods!
Once the meal is prepared, encourage children to take the time to look at the food they are about to consume. Taste every mouthful and be present during meal times as this will help the body to absorb nutrients. Slowing down and observing what we eat can prevent overeating too. It takes approximately 20 minutes for our stomach to signal back to our brain that it is full. So place cutlery down between mouthfuls and play a game to see who can win the slow race at the table! For more tips on healthy eating habits, click here
5. Make a homemade card to say thank you to someone (Give, connect, learn) Writing a thank you note on a homemade card helps children to feel connected and happy, and the chance to nurture their relationships with others. Being grateful is mostly associated with feelings of increased happiness and positive emotions. It enables us to relish positive and enjoyable experiences, however big or small. The thank yoy card can be made with any bits and pieces you can find around the house and garden; ribbons, glitter, felt-tips, rice, dried pasta, fallen leaves – kids can use their imagination to conjure up some great designs!
Research shows that grateful children tend to be happier, more optimistic, and have better social support. They also report more satisfaction with their schools, families, communities, friends, and themselves. Grateful kids also tend to give more social support to others as well.
6. Be still – mindfulness (Notice) Children of all ages can benefit from mindfulness. It is good for their mental health and helps to develop compassion, focus, curiosity and empathy. Don’t make mindfulness seem like something only to be used in times of trouble or stressful situations, it is helpful for everyday life. Try activities such as breathing exercises, talking about emotions, listening to the sounds around them, yoga stretches or visualisation of a safe or favourite place. For some more easy mindfulness activities, click here.
7. Dancing and Music (Active, Connect) Music and dance engages the brain. Through music, children learn about different sounds, words and patterns. And through dance, they can explore and control their body movements. Activities based on music and dance are great for development, enabling children to express themselves and cultivate listening and social skills. It is also a good aerobic exercise that is linked to stress reduction, physical fitness and overall good health. Try doing the Emoji Dance… find a varied playlist and each time the song changes, children show the emotion of the song through their dancing and movement!
8. Be creative (Learn, Notice) Creativity is an essential part of wellbeing. Give children the time and space to make things and experiment with a range of materials and child-friendly tools. Creativity is about enjoying the activity, not about the finished product. It is also good to allow the children time to feel bored as this is when creativity occurs and children can discover their own natural talents!
9. Join in (Connect) Spending time together with your child or children is good for their development and wellbeing. Children have a passion for discovering things and learning new skills and they need adults around them to learn and explore with. Try sharing activities like preparing food, playing word games, doing some gardening, or take a walk outside together and see how many insects or birds you can spot.
10. Reduce screen time (Notice, Learn) In certain situations, excessive use of digital media can lead to behavioral and emotional problems. It is essential for children’s mental health to have some time away from screens! Turning screens off at least an hour before bedtime will help children to wind down before going to sleep – this includes mobile phones, tablets, TVs etc. The brain is stimulated by the light which suppresses our natural sleep hormones and makes it harder to fall asleep. There may be quite a reaction initially if children are used to amusing themselves with screens! Try activities such as listening to music, reading or story time, journalling, or colouring in, they will soon learn to enjoy these calming activities.
References and further reading