Monday, November 12, 2012

Promoting Healthy Habits

It's that time of year again - cold and flu season. Here are a few reminders on promoting healthy habits in children that can help them through this time of year with less illness.

Hand Washing: There is no substitute for thorough hand washing habits. Using soap and water is the best method for preventing the spread of illness. The keys are friction and time. Introduce young children to hand washing with constant motion using soap and water while singing the ABC Song through two times. Even better make up your own hand washing song that will give children ownership of the experience. While hand sanitizers are fine when nothing else is available they don’t compare to soap and water. In order for a hand sanitizer product to be effective it needs to contain 90% alcohol – most do not contain this much. At 90% alcohol it can mean that skin will suffer from extended use of the product – not very child friendly.

Sneezes and Coughs: We all know by now that catching sneezes or coughs in the crook of your arm or at the shoulder away from others is the best method for avoiding spread of illness. Practicing with children when they are well reinforces behaviors when they are sick. You can demonstrate what a sneeze or cough does in the air by using a spray bottle with water. They can see how water droplets shoot out into a room.

Eating Right: Promoting healthy food habits is an important part of illness prevention. When we have a balanced diet, good snack choices and plenty of rest our bodies work with us to resist illness. Choose foods that support health – include plenty of fruits and vegetables, limit fats and sugars, and go with water over sugary drinks. Having a special treat now and again is no problem for those who get a good balanced diet.

Exercise and Outdoor Activities: Encourage plenty of activity each day which features outdoor time. Spending time outdoors can mean walks, active games, art time, sand and water play, science and nature activities, and more. Time outdoors as weather permits, promotes a healthy appetite, encourages deeper sleep/nap and enhances overall wellbeing. When the weather doesn’t permit outdoor time don’t forget that physical activities can take place indoors as well. Indoor obstacle courses, dance, and action games can help on those days. While all children can benefit from being outdoors and active play, it’s especially true for children that are behaviorally challenged.

There is a lot we can do to promote healthy habits and prevent illness. Starting early forming these habits will lead to healthier, happier children.

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