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Mark Steines and Leanza Cornett

It’s business as usual for Entertainment Tonight star Mark Steines. He’s up at 5 a.m. with his son, Avery, for some male bonding while Steines gets ready for work. By 7:45 a.m., he has shared breakfast with his son, Kai, and is passing Avery to his wife, Leanza Cornett, television personality and Miss America 1993. Then it’s off to the set of ET, where he will spend the day
interviewing some of the world’s most famous people. Sometimes he flies to New York for the day, other times he’ll cover movie premieres, but today’s to-do list includes chatting with actors Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore. At the end of the day, he arrives home and plays his favorite role of all: Dad.

Mark Steines and Leanza Cornett-A Play Date With the Steines Family

We caught up with Steines, Cornett and their kids during after-work playtime and talked with them about their fun and fit life in sunny Los Angeles.

EA: How important is it for you to play with your kids?

Steines: I am learning as a parent how important play is and how it relates to learning, and I see play as more than just a time to bond; I see it as a learning experience for them.

I’ve also learned when I am playing with Kai that he is watching me do certain things and trying to mimic me. I am sitting back more, watching him to see how he learns and how he plays and then join in.

Cornett: If Kai wants to go out, we will make playtime outside. We let him be the guide and that doesn’t mean that we are not structured or that we don’t have discipline because we do. But play is such a huge part of Kai’s life and that includes going to the park every single day. We are in a toddler group once a week. And Kai is learning to play with Avery. For instance, if Avery is in his exersaucer, Kai will come up and start playing with the toys on it. I can see Avery’s wheels turning as he watches Kai. He laughs at Kai and now Kai is getting the biggest kick out of making Avery laugh.

Mark Steines and Leanza Cornett-A Play Date With the Steines FamilyEA: How are you preserving these special moments?

Cornett: We are taking a lot of pictures and we are getting the video camera out. Moments where Avery will be laughing at something and we know we have Kai on video laughing hysterically so we want to get that with Avery, too. But, we are really fortunate in that my mother is one of these scrapbookers. For Christmas, that was our gift from her. It was a huge scrapbook of pictures she had taken with Kai.

EA: Mark, since your in-laws live in your coach house, how is it having them so close?

Steines: I love my mother-in-law to death. She didn’t do half bad – she raised Miss America. On some level she is like a coach. Both of my parents worked growing up and Leanza’s mom stayed home and I really see the attention, patience and dedication she has as a parent, to her grandchildren.

EA: How are you living a fit and healthy life with your kids?

Steines: We have an elliptical trainer in the house, and I ride bikes. We do some light weight training and Leanza has a trainer who comes to the house occasionally to work with her or she goes to the gym.

Mark Steines and Leanza Cornett-A Play Date With the Steines FamilyI think you set an example by what you put in front of them and put in front of yourself. It’s not just about what you do physically but what you consume, because you are what you eat. We gave Kai a tricycle with a bar that we can push. We used to take him in the baby jogger on weekends. We would go for an hour walk and he would fall asleep. We also put him in a baby backpack and went hiking.

Cornett: I love to cook and love to try new foods myself, so that is something Kai has grown up with. We have a [son] that loves sushi, and pretty much anything. In fact, he just sat down to plateful of turkey meatballs and edamame (boiled soybeans).

I feel lucky that he is a good eater, and that contributes to a healthy lifestyle and it makes you more active. Kai loves to run and play. Mark is a former football player and that will be a fun thing for him to teach Kai. And my dad is making a Little Tykes basketball set for Kai and shooting hoops.

EA: Leanza, as a Miss America, did you grow up with a healthy lifestyle?

Cornett: My mom was always on a diet and taking diet pills – that was the lifestyle back then. That was what I grew up listening to, so my idea of healthy lifestyle was a little bit warped. When I was doing pageants, over 10 years ago, I constantly starved myself, I was always sick. I was probably the unhealthiest that I have ever been. It took that to sort of push me over the edge and say, ‘You know, this is no way to live. I am 25 years old and I am sick all the time because my body weight is so low.’ When I met Mark he had already so much knowledge about fitness and then my interest in cooking led us to define our healthy lifestyle. I don’t want our kids to grow up thinking that deprivation and starving and thin equals healthy.

Steines: Then there is the flipside to that. I grew up in the house of the ‘clean plate club,’ which doesn’t exist in our house, If Kai doesn’t want to clean his plate, we don’t make him sit at the table until everything is eaten because it’s not fair to him. We try to let him eat naturally, when his body wants to be fed.

EA: How do you make sure kids are not obsessed with what they put into their bodies?

Cornett: There is going to be a time in his life very soon where he is going to be able to make the choice as to what he eats and I figure if we lay the foundation as to, ‘Hey, this is the healthy thing, this is what gives you more energy, this is what fuels your body,’ then those choices will be at least more educated. But I don’t ever want him to feel like he can’t have a bowl of ice cream if that’s what he really wants. I don’t want him to ever feel like there is a fear of food or obsession with exercise.

EA: What is your best advice for parents?

Mark Steines and Leanza Cornett-A Play Date With the Steines Family
Steines: Not too much television. When you can tell there’s that glossy look over their face and they just really are not doing anything and they are lethargic, I think that’s the time to turn it off and get them out and get some fresh air. He watches usually a little bit in the morning when he gets up and in the evening when he comes in from outside.

Cornett: And one big rule is he absolutely does not eat meals in front of the television. He can have a snack, like an apple or some grapes or cashews, but to sit down and have breakfast, lunch or dinner, that’s at the table.

Steines: There is no substitute for time with your child. You have to interact with them and you have to have a connection with them.

You have to make a deposit in that parental bank account. If you’re going to have a long lasting, deep, connected relationship with your child, you have to start building that up at a very young age. So that when all that trust and love and everything starts to be tested when they are teens, you’ve got a lot to fall back on.

Mark Steines and Leanza Cornett-A Play Date With the Steines Family
EA: Do you take vitamin supplements?

Steines: Yes, every day.

Cornett: There are these wonderful, sugar-free, organic, gummy bear vitamins; I get them for Kai at Whole Foods. Mark and I both take multivitamins. I take vitamin E, flaxseed oil, folic acid. We take them together as a family. When Mark and I have breakfast in the morning with Kai, we have our vitamins sitting by our water and by his milk and we take them together.

EA: What’s it like when you’re around glamorous people all day and then you come home to the kids?

Cornett: It is so real, and that’s what’s fun about it. Mark and I had a weekend away. We checked into a hotel and pampered ourselves – it was great. But we got together with friends and we would look at each other and say, ‘Stop talking about the kids!’ Because that’s where our lives and our hearts are now.

Steines: When you go upstairs to pick up your son, and you see him there naked holding his diaper, completely empty with a pile of poop on the floor going, ‘Uh oh!’ At some point you just go, ‘OK, well I guess Remington Steele is going to have to wait another 15 minutes while I get this cleaned up. It keeps you very centered and real.