How do you promote a healthy lifestyle to your kids?

This week the Mom's Council looks at ways of making healthy living attractive to the no veggies crowd...

The Question, as submitted by Alisa Stendardo: How do you encourage or promote a healthy lifestyle in your kids? Do you lead by example? Do you limit TV/computer time? Is there such a thing as too much activity/sport participation?

Answer from Allison: With most aspects of parenting/child development, I try to look at the big picture.  Some days are going to be very active, some days are going to be quieter, depending on the weather, illness, how tired the kids are, time of year etc.  We don't watch much TV in our house, but after the snow days this past winter, my girls could recite most of "The Sound of Music" from heart.  I didn't worry about it, though, because I know that as the weather gets nicer, we'll be outside almost all day, every day.   

Following cues from my daughters, who are very clear about what they like and do not like, we tend to do much more general play/activity (playground, bikes in our driveway, gardening, snow angels/sledding, neighbor's yard, walk to the library, sandbox, Drumlin Farm) than organized activities.  Perhaps someday that will change, but right now they have the opportunity to be active every day in the ways that seem to work best for them.

Answer from Alisa: We definitely make a concerted effort on weekends (if-and-when we have good weather) to get to the playground or even to the open grassy spot across the street for some fresh air. The little guy is just learning to walk so he is in near-constant motion these days. I know as he transitions to the toddler room at his daycare, he'll get out 2x per day which is a great perk, along with plenty of play time with his classmates.

My husband is a runner and I do my best to get to the gym a few times per week  and while we don’t expect our son to become a little weight lifter, I think it is important for us to set a good example for him regarding how we take care of ourselves. I will try to introduce sports like skiing and soccer and swimming as he gets steadier on his feet, but I also feel that if he doesn’t want to participate I won't force the issue (but hopefully can find something else that grabs and holds his attention). TV hasn’t become an issue yet but I am sure it will be soon. I'm not opposed to some TV viewing, but hope like all things that it's something we can teach our son to appreciate in moderation.

Answer from Jessica: I think we can encourage or promote a healthy lifestyle to our kids by setting good examples. We can start by showing them what it means to make healthy choices with the foods we choose to eat and cook with.  We can make it fun by actively engaging them in assisting with the grocery shopping and the cooking. We can also instill a love for outdoor activities by keeping them as a priority in our family lifestyle. It helps to create active family traditions like group hikes or baseball games.

I do believe that down-time (and not over-scheduling activities) makes for a healthy balance in someone's life. However, limiting TV/computer time and encouraging activity is always a good idea. 


Alisa Stendardo is a full-time working mom living in Somerville and is the founder of the workingmomsomerville Yahoo Group, which meets on the first Thursday of every month at Diesel at 8 p.m. Her son just turned one.

Alison Mitchell is mom to Katherine, 4 1/2 and Sophie, 2 1/2, and moderator of the SomervilleMoms Yahoo Groups. 

Jessica Stowe has an extensive background in childcare and is the founder of Personally Paired (www.personallypaired.com) which connects Boston area parents with sitters and nannies.

Kate van Sleet: I’m a paralegal for public television, but my primary job title is "Mom" to my 17-month-old daughter.  I chose to join the council because though I have lived in Somerville for nearly ten years, I am new to the world of parenting and would love to connect with other parents in the neighborhood.  My family loves Somerville and is always looking for ways to participate in the community.  I also serve on the Board of Trustees of the Somerville Public Library. 

Lucas Friedlaender: I’m  a father of three (a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old and a 15-month old) and I co-own Twinkle Star Baby Boutique in Porter Square with my wife Kerri Friedlaender, so I’m around kids and the children’s world all day everyday. My wife and I are pretty involved in parenting circles in Somerville.


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