Happy Healthy Hearts: Setting children up with healthy habits for a strong heart

by Amanda Simmons M.S., OTR/L

February is Heart Health Month. There is a national focus on preventing heart disease. With our society becoming increasingly sedentary, it is important that we teach our clients how to set their bodies, minds, and hearts up for success through an active lifestyle in the best way that we can. Some of our clients struggle with endurance, or struggle with organized sports, and we want to ensure that they feel successful every day.

Build an active daily routine

This month, focus on building more activity into your daily routine. February is a cold and dark month, so some of the following ideas can be completed within your home.

Have tricky transitions from playtime to dinner time? Have your child complete animal walks during transitions, which will increase their blood flow and work on postural control.

Are your little monkeys allowed to jump on the bed? The unstable surface is aerobically challenging for kids, and it may help increase their body awareness and balance.

Does Mom or Dad (or any other primary caregiver) enjoy yoga? There are plenty of kid-friendly yoga videos on the internet that can be modified up or down for adults and children.

Have a jump rope lying around? Jumping rope is another great way to get your heart rate up. It also promotes rhythm and timing, which is important for the smooth and graded completion of motor movements.

Use and create heart healthy recipes

Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D are the best vitamins to support a healthy heart. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, nuts, canola oil, spinach, and chia seeds. If these foods are tricky for your child to manage, consider making it into an art project. Click here for a fun idea!

  • Chia seeds look a lot like sprinkles and have a “small” taste. Can you decorate some sugar cookies with chia seeds?
  • Kids also might love building their own trail mix, which can include fun candies like M&Ms, as well as nuts and pretzels.
  • Dairy products, cheese, and egg yolks are high in Vitamin D. Consider buying fun cookie cutters and cutting cheese slices into preferred shapes, like hearts, stars, dinosaurs, and other animals. Sometimes, changes in appearance can make a huge difference in the child’s ability to accept a food.