Parents want their kids to be healthy, and stay healthy. Sick kids mean missed school days for them, missed work days for parents, and general disruption in your family’s routines. But when all your kid’s classmates are bringing germs to school, the effort to keep your child healthy during winter seems darn near impossible.
So how do we help ensure that OUR kids aren’t the ones who succumb to every virus they encounter (and then share that bug with the rest of the family)? The best piece of parenting advice about kids health I have on this starts with the basics: build up their immune system, so those winter viruses don’t stand a chance.
But how? Read on for practical steps you can take to keep your kids’ immune systems running strong throughout the colder months.
Practical Steps To Keep Your Child Healthy During Winter
1) Get Your Seasonal Nutrients
In case your family needs reminding: Vegetables and fruits help keep your immune system strong! In our house, we always serve fruits/veggies first, when the girls are most hungry, before we serve them the rest of the meal.
Have a hard time getting your kids to eat their fruits and veggies? Whenever possible, eat what’s in season and local. When foods are seasonally fresh and locally sourced,
- they taste better,
- they contain more nutrients because they’re fresher when you eat them,
- they’re less expensive (lower travel/storage costs), AND
- they’re also more Earth-friendly (fewer resources to get from field to table).
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We have several supermarket chains in our area, but we try to shop mainly at the one that supports local farmers in our area. We know that the winter squashes you see in this picture were grown locally, so we’re supporting our neighbors while getting the best possible nutrition and flavor.
Likewise, whether your local farmer’s market runs year-round or just in warmer months, shopping there whenever you can will support your neighbors AND get your family the freshest, tastiest food possible.
2. Get Outdoors
Spending time outside boosts more than just fitness levels and family togetherness. In winter when sunlight levels are lower, it can be harder to get enough vitamin D, which plays an important role in keeping our immune systems strong. Spending time outside will help your family make sure their vitamin D levels stay where they belong. Regular doses of daylight can also help combat seasonal affective disorder.
But there are other health benefits to spending time outdoors, of course. Getting exercise and fresh air in the winter is just as important as it is during the rest of the year. The exercise can help adults and kids alike maintain healthy weight levels around all those holiday goodies.
So bundle your kids up, and send them outside to play in that fresh snow. Get outside and play with them. Shovel your driveway or sidewalk together. Go ice-skating, if you have access to a local pond or rink. Take a winter hike and look for animal tracks in the snow.
3. DON’T share your germs
Grownups have internalized the fact that sharing germs spreads illness, but kids can often benefit from regular reminders. As I’ve noted elsewhere, basic hygiene can go a long way toward keeping your kids (and you!) healthy during the winter. Teaching (and reminding) children about the importance of personal hygiene is essential to helping them avoid getting sick.
RELATED POST: How To NOT Get Sick This Winter
Things you should teach your kids, and remind them regularly:
- Not putting their mouth all over toys and other things (this can be tempting for kids of all ages, not just infants);
- Covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze;
- Handwashing – not just after using the toilet, but also washing after a sneeze or cough, before meals, and after touching their nose/mouth/eyes;
- Using tissues and disposing of them promptly;
- Trying not to touch doorknobs, faucet handles, etc. with bare hands (use a sleeve or a piece of paper towel);
- Avoiding touching their hands, mouths, and eyes.
Kids aren’t born knowing that if they cough and then put their hands everywhere, it can spread germs and lead to others getting sick, as well as themselves. So teach the importance of washing hands before a meal, and just generally staying clean. If someone in your home IS sick, you can even get your kids to help you keep surfaces clean with antiviral/antimicrobial products!
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