Julia Shelton
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Fostering Healthy Habits in Young Children

Every parent knows that fostering healthy habits in children is important, but there is no instruction manual for how to go about it. In the middle of a tantrum or a broccoli boycott, it can even seem like giving in to unhealthy habits is the only option. But healthy habits are some of the most crucial behaviors children can learn, and they can be taught successfully with a little preparation and a lot of encouragement.

A habit is, by definition, a “regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” It can be tough to recognize habits forming before they become routine, and, as most parents know firsthand, bad habits are hard to break. That’s why fostering healthy behavior in children must start early on.

Before thinking of your next scheme to turn TV time into book time or to camouflage green beans, keep in mind the following bites of information from Dr. Laura Jana, pediatrician, author and member of the Primrose Schools Education Advisory Board:

The numbers add up. Adults tend to dismiss habits like having one sweet after dinner or taking a daily stroll around the block as being too small to matter, but the numbers really do add up. Even the smallest actions can make a difference in a child’s future behaviors.

It’s never too early. The earlier a child forms a healthy habit, the better. Don’t let age discourage you from promoting a healthy routine as long as it can be done in a safe way.

Take a step back. Parents are busy – it’s a fact. Try to take a step back every now and then to evaluate whether your actions with and around your child are promoting healthy habits, and readjust as needed.


Dr. Jana also offers the following advice to encourage two of the most important habits for young children: tooth-brushing and reading.


If you want your child to remember and even enjoy tooth-brushing, don’t wait for teeth. Infants love putting things in their mouths and having their gums rubbed. Establish a fun routine using baby toothbrushes, which are designed specifically for an infant’s mouth, to kick-start a healthy habit before your child reaches the tumultuous stage of toddlerhood.


Make reading fun before it becomes a challenge your child has to overcome. Start reading together even before your child can sit up, hold a book and understand all the words. After all, the goal isn’t just to raise a child who knows how to read but who loves to read. As your child gets older, find ways to expand the routine or to make it more fun.

Encouraging healthy habits in children is no easy task, but getting a head start, taking small steps, and looking at the bigger picture every now and then can make all the difference.


Primrose Schools is a national family of dedicated leaders serving children, families and communities in our premier accredited early education and care schools. To learn about Primrose School of Preston Hollow visit or call 214-369-7774.  For more parenting tips, visit our 360 Parenting blog at

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