At Connecticut Children’s we focus on heart health and nutrition every day!

Dr. Shailendra Upadhyay, pediatric cardiologist and Jennifer Zarrilli, pediatric nutritionist, share five fun and educational ideas to engage the whole family in making excellent, heart-healthy choices.

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1. Get moving, even for a little bit at a time.

The heart is one of your body’s most powerful muscles, so encourage your child to give it a workout! Better yet, plan an indoor or outdoor activity together, especially if you’re both tired of being cooped up during yet another COVID quarantine.

The American Heart Association recommends school-aged kids and teens should try to get at least an hour a day (broken up is fine!) of moderate to vigorous exercise. For younger children, a great goal is three hours a day, broken up. Get from the American Heart Association or check out this video on why yoga is so good for everyone

2. Get creative—and active—with household chores.

Believe it or not, cleaning can be great exercise. The possibilities are endless, so turn on some tunes and clean to the beat! Here are some quick tips:

  • Set a time limit for cleaning each room, then reward your kids with a prize after the deed is done. This will encourage them to move quickly—a win-win for your house and their heart health.
  • Do a nightly “speed clean” the whole family will enjoy. Before bed, set the timer for five minutes and make a game out of who can clean the fastest.
  • Work out those arms and get the blood flowing! Invest in a child-sized, realistic broom and dustpan for sweeping. Mopping is great, too.

3. Teach grade-level kids to read labels wisely.

As a general rule, the shorter the list of ingredients on packaged or processed foods, the better for your health and your heart. When looking at the nutrition facts, things like sodium, saturated fats and fiber come into play. The more “healthy” fats and fiber, the better. Of course, maintaining an overall health weight and diet is important, too!  

This helpful guide from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics further breaks down the terms to look for when reading food labels.

A mother and her daughter cook

4. Get colorful with meal time—think, rainbow!

The more (healthy) colors on everyone’s plate, the better. So, go for it: make smiley faces with peas and carrots. Sport a curly hairdo with the kale and so on, and so on. The American Heart Association is also a great resource for kid- and heart-friendly recipes.

>Related: Portion Sizes for Kids: How Much Food Is Healthy for My Child’s Age?

5. Make learning about the circulatory system fun.

What are the parts of the heart? What do each of them do and why are they important? What role does the heart play in the circulatory system?

You don’t need a medical degree to teach kids the basics of how the heart works and why it’s important to keep it healthy. A creative imagination and some art supplies will do the trick! So, how about building a heart house or tying colorful yarn to learn about veins and arteries? Check out these 20 hands-on heart and circulatory system activities for kids.