If you are a parent, you are your child's primary role model. Children are good learners, so it is important to set good examples for your child. Setting a good example of healthy lifestyle habits will stay with your children for the rest of their lives. Page ContentAlthough children like to follow their peers, parents still have the biggest influence in their children's lives and can really impact the lifestyle choices their children make. When parents are involved in creating a healthy lifestyle for the whole family, their children will participate. On a practical note, healthy kids miss fewer days of school, reducing the chances of missing school work and falling behind. Here are a few simple suggestions that can give your children a lifetime of healthy habits: Plan for healthy eating. Healthy eating is a first line of defense against illness and important for brain development, but it's often a challenge to eat well when school and work schedules are full of activities. So, consider the following: Take some time each week to plan meals and shop from a list. It's easier to face the kitchen at 5 p.m. (and skip the drive-thru) when you know that you have everything you need to put together a quick, nutritious dinner.Packing lunches is usually healthier than buying them at school. Pack fruits, vegetables and sandwiches with whole grain bread and lean proteins, and include water rather than juice or soda.Don't forget that a nutritious breakfast is the best way to start everyone's day. Limit TV and (non-homework) computer time. Computers and TV can be great learning tools, but they are also sedentary pursuits that can contribute to childhood obesity. If you're worried about your child's weight, track the time he or she spends watching TV and doing non-homework computer activities. You may be surprised how much time is spent in these sedentary activities. Try to come up with active family activities, such as a walk after dinner, riding bikes (don't forget to wear protective helmets!) or other exercise. Get Involved! Kids who are involved in extracurricular activities have less free time to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and sports activities are great forms of exercise. It's an extra bonus if the parents can be involved in coaching and mentoring activities with their kids. Encourage activities that develop your child's talents and skills. Participation in athletics, speech, drama, dance, music, and volunteer activities make for well-rounded adults. Make sure everyone gets enough sleep. Recent studies show that a good portion of brain development happens during sleep, especially for younger children. Proper sleep is also required for optimal brain functioning, such as memory and learning. Falling asleep during the day is not normal, so if your child is having problems staying awake during school or work, try to increasing nighttime sleep or see your child's doctor for further assessments. Encourage frequent hand washing. Schools are breeding grounds for common illnesses as well as serious diseases, and frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to limit the spread of germs. Also, alcohol-based hand cleaners (like Purell) are great germ-killers that don't require water, but check with your child's school to make sure your child is allowed to carry a hand sanitizer. Teachers will frequently keep a few bottles in class, if parents will donate them. Play together and stay together. With everyone's busy schedules, family time doesn't just happen; it must be planned. As the adult, you are the one who needs to schedule family time just as you would other important activities. Pick a time during the week that is "sacred" family time and fill it with meaningful activities: visit relatives, work on photo albums, plan the next vacation, have a picnic, go to church, visit a museum, or help those who are less fortunate. Strong family bonds give your kids the emotional security they need to tackle the tough job of growing up. If you have any concerns about helping your child learn healthy habits, call (713) 442-KIDS (5437) to schedule an appointment with a Kelsey-Seybold pediatrician.