The holidays are a time of giving, and unfortunately sometimes cold and flu germs seem to be the things our kids give the most of at this time. We are spending more time with friends and family, travelling, shopping at the malls, and sharing close quarters indoors, and it can be really hard to keep our kids healthy. Flu season just happens to coincide with the holiday season and keeping kids healthy is no easy task. They are grabbing Christmas cookies off of platters and wiping runny noses on their sleeves (some more than others!) during caroling. It’s time to keep the germs away so the kids can play!
12 Tips for Healthier Kids
- Invest in small, portable instant hand sanitizer bottles. They have cute rubber bottle holders that can clip to backpacks, key rings, or coat zippers. My kids are more apt to use these if they have their own and are easily accessible.
- Teach hand-washing as if it is the most amazing activity in the universe. If your little ones aren’t quite at a point yet where they do an adequate job, use the singing trick or tell 3 knock-knock jokes. Have your kids sing the happy birthday song to themselves, the ABC song, or anything that keeps their hands moving for at least 20 seconds. I liked to distract mine with silly jokes – they would be so intent on thinking of the answer that I didn’t have to be the hand-washing police – they kept moving their hands as they thought of the punch line.
- Pack the tissues – everywhere! You can buy those mini packs of tissues or just take some snack size zipper seal baggies and keep refilling them. Toss them in backpacks, coat pockets, and the glove box. If your child will be spending time outdoors, add a few more for the inevitable winter runny noise. Teach your child when she is not sick how to blow her nose. When the time comes for her to need to know that skill, she might be feeling crabby and have a sore nose, so every time you “help” her it will only irritate her sick little body.
- Teach your children to cough and sneeze into the crooks of their elbows if tissues aren’t available. This keeps the germs off of their hands and blocks a fair amount of it from zooming to the kids sitting next to them. If your child must use his hand, teach him to immediately wash his hand or use instant sanitizer before touching anything else.
- Disinfect frequently transported items every day – backpacks, laptop cases, lunch bags just for a start. I even take disinfectant wipes and go over the covers of library books with a quick swipe as soon as we get them home (or sometimes even as soon as we hit the minivan).
- Use the disinfectant wipes the grocery store supplies or use your own (or a coat sleeve in a pinch). Disinfect and wash the hard surface toys in your house, especially after your kids have friends over to play.
- Keep your kids exercising. Winter can be a challenging time for people to get outside or out and about to stay fit and healthy. Help your kids find winter sports they enjoy such as skating, sledding, skiing, or snowshoeing. If your climate doesn’t have these cold-required activities, find a local gym or community center where your kids can get regular exercise.
- Consider adding a vitamin to their regimen if your kids don’t already take one (but talk to their doctor first). Extra boosts to their immune system can help prepare their bodies for the inevitable.
- Wash their bedding more frequently, including pillows, and invest in a good pillow cover.
- If your kids are extra sensitive to things like dust mites, keep stuffed animals in the freezer and let your child take one out at a time. These stuffed creatures are germ and mite magnets, but the freezer helps knock those buggers away. One of my sons loved to tuck his creatures into the freezer and then trade out every few days.
- If your child is ill, please keep her home during the peak of her illness. It isn’t fun to miss the activities of the holidays, but keeping your child at home really is the fair thing to do. One Christmas stayed home with a son who had influenza – it was my gift to others that I didn’t bring him to the family Christmas meal! Good thing, too, as he eventually ended up in the ER with a full blown case of influenza (but no one else did in the family, thankfully).
- Stay far, far away from those cute little play centers at your local mall if you don’t have a way to clean the surfaces and your kids. Let’s face it – kids are some of the most germ-laden people around. If your kid wants to head down the slide in the food-court while licking the last of the chicken off of his fingers or ride on the plastic pony while she alternately hangs onto the mane and sucks one finger, chances are 8 million other kids did the same thing. Do you really want them bringing all of that home just in time for the holidays?