How to Make New York City Just as Healthy for Kids as the Suburbs
Raising healthy kids has always been hard and it seems it’s gotten harder with each passing generation. Sure, we have better immunization than we did 70 years ago, but we also have more toxins in the environment and more things in general that can be unsafe for little ones.
And, no matter how hard we as parents try to instill health consciousness, when we send our kids out into the world, our words compete against a slew of unhealthy temptations. This is especially true for those of us raising kids in a big city like NYC. As wonderful and amazing as this city is – heck, it’s truly the greatest city on the planet – it can be challenging raising healthy kids here.
Hence the age-old debate about where it’s better to raise your kids – NYC or the suburbs. That depends on who you ask, of course. There will always be parents on both sides of the picket fence. Personally speaking, as someone who grew up in NYC and is raising my kids here, I know firsthand the benefits and struggles of family life in the city. But I and my family wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Can you raise healthy kids in NYC like you can in the suburbs? Absolutely! In fact, I happen to think there are healthy advantages to raising kids in the city.
As a general rule, truly healthy kids are ones who take an active role in their health – they aren’t being “forced” to make healthy decisions. With this in mind, it’s important that parents instill healthy habits in their kids by:
- Making health a family affair and a family priority.
- Staying very involved.
- Not making things complicated.
Always remember, as the parent, you play a key role in your child’s choices and behaviors.
Here are some ways you can make NYC just as healthy for your kids as the suburbs:
Be Active with Your kids
In the suburbs, it’s easy to tell your kids to go outside and run around in the yard, or ride their bike outside in the cul-de-sac, or go swimming in the neighbor’s pool. With all of this safe, outdoor space, it’s easy for kids to stay physically fit and active.
City parents don’t have this luxury, and so we have to work harder at getting our kids to be physically active. Telling them to run around in the stairways and hallways of our apartment building will NOT be appreciated by our neighbors.
What we can do is get out and be active with our kids. One of the great things about NYC is there are so many wonderful public parks to take our kids to and play with them. Don’t sit on a bench and watch them play with other kids, but actually play WITH them. Toss a ball around, kick a soccer ball, chase them, play Frisbee. Not only are we getting them to move but we are setting an example by moving with them.
Limit Their Screen Time
It seems our kids would rather spend more time in front of the TV or their computer playing video games than just about anything else. And while this is fine for about 30 – 45 minutes a day, it can be very unhealthy for longer periods.
In the suburbs, many families have large 3 bedroom houses with playrooms where kids can do other things besides watch television and play video games. But what are us city folk supposed to do? Well, we may have tiny apartments, but they’re big enough to play Uno or Scrabble or Chutes and Ladders or Crazy 8’s.
And you know what I’ve learned in the past year (though my kids would probably deny this) – they actually love playing silly board games and card games with their parents and sisters than playing their video games. Never expected that one.
On nice, warmer evenings, my family and I also take a family walk after dinner around the neighborhood. You never know what you’re going to see so it’s a fun family adventure, and we also get some nice, gentle exercise instead of all sitting in front of the television.
Instill Good Nutrition Habits
One of the best things about living in NYC is the food! And I don’t just mean that it’s delicious and we have access to some of the finest establishments, though we do and that’s awesome. I mean there is such a wonderful variety of food, unlike in the suburbs, that it’s easier for us to enjoy meals out as a family and make them healthy.
In the suburbs, you’re apt to have few choices like fast food chains, pizza shops, and an Olive Garden. But in NYC, you have world cuisine at your fingertips, which means not only can you expose your children to diverse cultures, you can expose them to different, healthy ways of eating. My kids loved sushi at a very young age. I assure you, a sushi dinner is much healthier than burgers and fries.
Plus, in the warmer months, NYC has a ton of great farmers’ markets where you can take your kids and show them the wonderful organic produce. Shop together then take your produce home and create a gorgeous salad together.
Instilling healthy eating habits is, I feel, much easier in a big city.
Raising healthy kids in NYC doesn’t have to be hard if you follow some simple guidelines. In our opinion, city kids have it SO much better than suburban kids. But let’s keep that between us so all of those suburbanites don’t move to the city!