Addressing Pandemic Needs

Pandemic Parenting: Healthy Eating and Activity for Kids

By: Stacy Chandna, MS, CIP 

Parenting is chock full of challenges already, but #pandemicparenting has created a whole new set to consider. Amidst what may feel like constant chaos as parents try to tackle home schooling, social distancing and quelling of kids’ fears – while likely also meeting the demands of job responsibilities – there is the tremendous need to encourage healthy eating and activity, perhaps now more than ever.

Any parent reading this may be thinking, “Sure, why not add more items to my endless list of responsibilities right now as I scramble to create some sense of structure in my child’s life?!”

To that, I say healthy eating and activity are incredibly powerful tools that we should use now to keep us connected, to keep us thriving, and to keep us calm when we need it most.  And, filling our little ones’ (and our own) bellies with nutritious and delicious snacks and fueling healthy doses of activity is not as hard as one may think.

The Kohl’s Start Childhood Off Right (SCOR) team is here to help you strategize.

  • Grab your kids and get back in the kitchen: This may be the perfect opportunity to dust off your kitchen tools, pull up a stool, and get cooking (after washing your hands of course!). Kids of all ages can join in, with the littlest ones responsible for plucking herbs, stirring or measuring. Not only does cooking serve as a creative activity itself, it also may entice family members to try foods that they previously resisted. Here are a few tried and true recipes for healthful snacks that are fun to make and will fuel your family:
    • Banana Sushi
    • Protein Balls
    • Strawberry Aliens
    • One of our personal favorites is the grazing board: chop up a variety of fruits and vegetables, slice some cheese, add roasted chickpeas or your bean du jour, and round out with a hearty cracker or bread. Voila! The options are endless and kids get to choose their own combinations, which is always a win.
  • Move it, move it: With millions of kids across the country out of school, parents need to fill the void with round the clock activity and physical activity is a great place to start. Not only does physical activity provide a much-needed energy release for kiddos (and parents alike), but it also helps to boost moods and keep minds calm.
    • Create an obstacle course using items found throughout the house (think couch cushions, empty boxes, blocks – again, the options are endless!)
    • Set up a pillow sack race
    • Create hopscotch indoors by applying painter’s tape on the floor
    • Set up an indoor scavenger hunt: depending on the ages involved, you could ask kids to find items that are a specific color, shape, or that start with a specific letter. While this may not be a heart-pumping activity, it does get everyone up, away from screens and on the move.
    • Yoga: Cosmic Kids is a great resource to introduce yoga to little ones
    • Dance the day away: a good old-fashioned dance party helps everyone to get the sillies out, requires no planning in advance, and can often turn off the tantrum switch
    • Take it outside: go outside as often and as much as possible. Any of the above can easily be done outside. If outdoor space is not at your disposal, go for a walk in your neighborhood or find a nearby park (although playgrounds are off limits for now). Some kids are not easily amused by going for a walk. If that’s the case, spice it up by turning it into a scavenger hunt or a game of I Spy.
  • Water first for your thirst: Stay hydrated and choose water over sugary drinks. If you or your kids are finding water boring, jazz it up by introducing “spa water.” Add sliced lemon, orange, and mint to your water bottle or replace ice with your favorite frozen fruit.

For more helpful information from Connecticut Children’s related to COVID-19, click here.

Read additional articles on the Advancing Kids Blog related to addressing pandemic needs here, including additional articles related to healthy eating and activity.

Stacy Chandna, MS, CIP is head of the Human Research Protection Program at Connecticut Children’s and co-director of the Kohl’s Start Childhood Off Right program.

To sign up to receive E-Updates from Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health, click here.

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