It’s good to know that in our day and age, medical knowledge and the ability to obtain information have increased so vastly, compared to even just a few decades ago. But even now, prevention is a fundamentally important way to maintain our health and that of our children, so that we won’t need medical interventions too often.
And what are some of the most essential ways to keep our children healthy the natural way? Here are five that should be on every family’s list.
1. Wash Hands Often:
It seems like such a simple point, but doctors will tell you that it’s in fact the easiest way to avoid some common childhood illnesses, such as the common cold and other infections that can spread through direct or indirect exposure to germs.
Even with conscientious parents who keep their children away from others when their kids are sick, parents can’t be sure that their children won’t be exposed to harmful germs when the kids interact with non-members of the household. That’s because a person doesn’t have to have any symptoms of being sick, to carry germs that could infect and make another person sick.
The easiest and best remedy to cut your children’s chances of picking up germs, then, is to teach them to wash their hands frequently, especially before eating and after touching objects that are handled by others, such as common toys, swings at the park, etc.
Proper Hand-Washing Technique:
Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (teach your children to count: one-thousand one, one-thousand two … one-thousand twenty). It is important to lather up with the soap, then wash it off.
2. Get Plenty of Sleep:
Unfortunately, one of the casualties in our modern world is decreased sleep for a lot of people. You really have to commit to getting enough rest for yourself and your family, as it is far too easy to let our responsibilities get in the way of our sleep. While some adults claim to be okay with just six hours of nightly sleep, most experts recommend that grown-ups aim for eight solid hours a night. Children need even more, with small children requiring about 12 hours, elementary school children needing about 10-11 hours, and teenagers needing 9 hours.
You may have heard that term. When we don’t get enough sleep, whether we’re big or little, we accumulate a sleep debt — we will not feel fully rested or perform at our best, until we repay our brains that debt. But health experts caution that it’s best to strive to get enough sleep every night, as opposed to playing “catch-up” on the weekends … or worse yet, never catching up, and just continuing to demand too much from our bodies by not making up for lost sleep.
Tip: If you need an alarm clock to wake up, or you need to wake your children, you/they did not get enough sleep.
3. Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet!
This is another point that can’t be overemphasized. Another casualty of our hurried modern times is that many people don’t make the best food choices. No matter what your age, it is vital to work with your body, not against it, and supply it with what it really needs: natural, whole, balanced foods. You and your children will feel and be healthier, if you are disciplined about avoiding processed foods in excess, as a key way to avoid artificial chemicals and non-nutritive fillers.
Visit your local farmer’s market, grow your own organic produce, if you can, frequent a supermarket that sells all-natural foods, and read ingredient labels on processed foods you buy anywhere else. Forget about counting calories — if you eat natural foods in a balanced way (i.e., balancing natural proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables), your family is unlikely to carry excess weight.
Health-Boosting, Comforting Drinks for Cold Weather:
When the weather gets cold, you will soothe your child’s throat and tummy, as well as strengthen his or her immune system, by giving them ginger tea, which is made by seeping thin slices of fresh ginger root in hot water; add honey, if desired. Or you can use fresh lemon juice, instead of ginger; lemon-flavored water tastes great as a hot beverage; add honey for sweetness or a small pinch of salt, to offset tartness and soothe throat.
4. Be Active!
This is no secret to anyone: one area where a lot of us are worse off than in old times is individual activity levels. And just like many adults are less active now, many children are, also.
It is important to make regular physical activity and/or exercise a part of your family’s routine. Doctors never cease to be amazed at how well regular exercise works for preventing different common illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even many cancers. The more you get your body’s blood circulating and you oxygenate those tissues, the better your body parts will function!
Healthy, effective exercise can be simple things like going for regular walks, bike-riding, gardening or even housework. If you want to get more serious about fitness, all the better: encourage your children to play a sport or play active games with neighborhood kids; this is much more conducive to good health than sitting around for hours at a time, playing video games or watching TV.
Tip: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that school-age children get no more than two hours of non-school-related screen time per day; kids under two should get no screen time at all, says the AAP.
So, if your kids put up a fuss about it, you can truthfully tell them that the doctor said so!
5. Bundle Up!
Just like washing hands is a simple, but key way to stay healthy, keeping your body warm when the weather is cold is an important way to avoid getting sick. Outfit your children with heavy coats, winter hats, scarves, gloves and insulated boots as needed, in colder climates.
Tip: Layering works great for cold weather. If a heavy coat is too much — that is, if the weather isn’t bitterly cold — try dressing your children in a t-shirt, then a shirt, and a sweater. They can wear lighter coats or windbreakers on top, which can be removed when they’re inside their warmer classroom.
By Lisa Pecos