Kids of today are growing up in an era where it's far too easy to be entertained without getting off the couch and where access to unhealthy food is at an all time high.

But for Black Sticks hockey player and wellness specialist Gemma Flynn, she sees these early years as the crucial time for shaping a child's approach to exercise and healthy eating.

Here Gemma shares her top tips for parents to help kids develop positive habits for life.

"Happily, children want to learn, but they want to have fun doing it. It helps to keep this in mind when teaching kids about health and wellbeing," says Gemma.


Gemma, who has two older brothers, credits her parents with their healthy take on exercise and eating. "We enjoyed a lot of typical Kiwi family activities when I was growing up: bike riding, swimming at the beach, walking our dogs. And at sport, my parents were always there on the sidelines to support me and my brothers.

"My parents also inspired in us a healthy relationship with food. We always ate breakfast; we sat down at the table to eat dinner together every night; and we approached treats as just that, treats."

Let kids play

Gemma takes kids from Milford Primary school outside for some fun. Photo / Supplied
Gemma takes kids from Milford Primary school outside for some fun. Photo / Supplied

• Too often children lose interest in a sport if they start too young and are pushed too hard. Gemma suggests letting them experiment with different activities, there's no need to specialise early.

Get them outside

• Encourage kids to put down their devices and get active outdoors. Kids enjoy incidental exercise such as a walk on the beach, messing about in the playground, or playing tag at the park.

Create a challenge

• Wear a pedometer and take a walk with your kids after dinner. Try to do more steps than last time - making it a competition can be fun

Involve them in meal prep

• Cook with your kids. And don't limit this to just baking; get them involved in preparing good, healthy meals.

Lead by example

• Encourage your children to be healthy by being a good role model, practise living your values, it will benefit both you and your kids.

Be firm, supportive and interested

• Don't give in too easily, be firm and be consistent. Show support for their interests and engage in daily conversation about what they're learning at school.

Find good role models

• Kids don't always want to listen to their parents, so enlist role models such as respected sports people, to help get your messages across.

Gemma Flynn is currently an ambassador for the AIA Healthy Kids Challenge, for more information visit