By Guest Blogger Henry Moore
Keeping our kids healthy is obviously a priority no matter what time of year it is, but these days it seems especially difficult to do that during winter months, when every surface seems loaded with germs. Viruses spread rapidly via everything from the handle of a shopping cart at the grocery store to contact with shared desks at school. While you won’t be able to protect your children from every illness, there are things you can do to keep them on a healthy track during the coldest months.
You can start with the easy things, like making sure your kiddos get enough sleep and cutting back on junk food, but it’s important not to forget the bigger issues, like building up the immune system. Here are five time-tested ways you can help your kids keep healthy habits in the winter.
1. Teach them self-care
Good self-care habits, such as getting enough rest at night, getting in daily exercise, and cutting back on sugar and processed foods, can stick with your kids for a lifetime. Help them set up a good sleep routine, show them the best foods to eat for energy and strong bones, and get outside and get moving with them. It might not sound appealing to spend time outside during the coldest months, but if you bundle up well and make it fun--build a snowman, take the dog for a walk, or learn a new sport such as skiing or ice hockey--you won’t even notice the temperature.
2. Get them active
Encouraging your children to lead an active lifestyle now can create lifelong healthy habits and attitudes. Incorporate regular physical activity into your family's routine. A morning stretch before breakfast can be a way to start, and you can plan different activities for different days. For example, Mondays maybe you all go to the park together and on Wednesdays you go for a walk through the neighborhood. Find creative ways to stay active even when you’re stuck at home--turn on some music and dance, do some adaptive yoga, or engage your kids in a fast-paced game of Simon Says to get them moving. For children with disabilities, try indoor options like a local YMCA’s swimming pool or an adaptive fitness center.
3. Hand washing
It goes without saying that our hands are the biggest source of germs in everyday situations, especially when runny noses and coughing are at their peak during cold months. Make sure your kids know the “cough into your arm” trick, but teach them that it’s still important to wash their hands after contact with others or after they use a tissue to wipe their nose. Make it routine, and your kids will begin to do it without thinking. Before and after eating, as soon as they get home from school, after playing with a friend, and after using the bathroom, remind them to wash up and have them sing the alphabet song all the way through while they do it to make sure they’re taking their time.
4. Don’t forget fluids
Healthy foods are one way to keep your family healthy, but it’s important not to forget fluids. Keep your children well hydrated, especially while they’re playing outside, and steer clear of sugary sodas, juices, and flavored drinks. Plain old water is the best way to go. Learn how much water kids should be drinking and have them use a fun water bottle to keep track of their hydration.
5. Use a humidifier
Keeping the air in your home moist will help your kids sleep better, especially if their lungs or throats are irritated by a cough or nasal drainage. Set it up on a towel in an out-of-the-way area where it won’t be in danger of getting knocked over and keep it going at night or at naptimes to help everyone rest easy.
Staying healthy in cold weather can be a challenge. Talk to your kids about the need to be extra vigilant during the colder winter months. Don’t just tell them what to do, explain how that action is beneficial. The more they understand about staying healthy, the more likely they’ll keep up positive habits.
About the Author
Henry Moore is the founder of the blog Fitwelltraveler.com. A self-professed health nut and adventure enthusiast, Henry blogs about travel and tips for staying healthy while on the road.