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Children have many natural behaviors that can teach us adults how to lead a healthy lifestyle. Here is my third installment about some of the important lessons I've learned from watching them:

Play with your food.  Most kids love to examine, smell and touch their food. Since eating is a total sensory experience, they get the most from every morsel. This childlike approach of eating mindfully will allow you to appreciate the aroma, appearance and flavors more—especially if you aren't driving, watching T.V., or standing in front of the refrigerator. I think you'll eat less food while enjoying it more.

Eating with your family is fun.  Since babies and toddlers must be fed by their caregivers, they naturally love eating with other people. Family mealtime is your opportunity to bond, connect with each other, and model healthy habits. Now that our kids are older, we sometimes play "High-Low" at dinner.  Each member of the family takes a turn telling the others about the best and worst parts of their day. What a great conversation starter and opportunity for all of us to learn how we handle normal ups and downs in our lives.

It's boring to just sit around.  Toddlers seem to be in perpetual motion as they constantly explore their world. Young kids love to run in the grass, play on the playground, and challenge themselves and each other with increasingly more difficult activities. Of course, as they get older, television, computers and electronic games compete for their attention. To encourage other activities in our family, we use "screen time" which limits how much time our children are allowed to spend on anything with a screen. Sometimes adults would benefit by limiting their screen time and exploring their world a little more.

Follow the leader.  Face it, kids watch, and often imitate, everything we do. If they observe us eating a variety of foods and enjoying physical activity, then they'll learn to take good care of their bodies. Likewise, if they don't hear us making comments like "I look so fat in this" or "I was bad at dinner so I have to spend an extra hour on the treadmill" then they are less likely to suffer from poor self-esteem and a negative attitude about exercise.

Sleep is good.  After a full day, children need a good night's sleep to prepare for all of the adventures that tomorrow will hold. Wouldn't we all benefit from a consistent bedtime to make sure we get our rest too?

Live in the moment.  Kids are masters at living in the present. They don't waste a lot of energy worrying about what has already happened or what might happen tomorrow.  They are fully engaged in small pursuits like discovering where the ants are going, chasing the dog, or seeing how deep they can dig with a plastic shovel. We, on the other hand, continue to scurry around, chasing after our dreams, all the while digging ourselves deeper and deeper. We could learn a lot from children!

Michelle May MD
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