Updated: Mar 19
I wrote this a couple of years ago but I'm re-posting it now in light of what happening in the world today!
Here it comes again! Cold and Flu Season. Are you ready?
After 40 years teaching very young children, I wish I could tell you that I've found the magic cure and your kids don't have to get sick this winter, but I can't do that. On the other hand, I know what works to keep families fortified against the germs they will undoubtedly encounter and I'd love to share those tips with you today.
1. Make sure they get more sleep, especially after being exposed to a virus. In general, kids these days are pretty severely sleep-deprived and it affects all areas of their development including learning, behavior and yes, immunity.
Keep in mind that most of the time when your kids can't get to sleep and their behavior is getting worse and worse, it's probably because they were overtired already when you started the bedtime process. Naps actually help them to sleep better at night when they're under 4, even though some parents tend to think the opposite.
2. Get some air. Make sure your children get outside in the winter every day, especially in the morning for some exercise and fun. This is crucial for health, sleep, behavior, and immunity.
And while I'm talking air, there's benefit in getting the air on the inside of your house moving too. Open the windows and air it out at least once a day, even in the cold weather. Oftentimes, people get sick because they stay inside rather than because they go out in the cold.
3. Teach them to relax. Stress is one of the biggest contributors to poor immune function. Since kids do what we do instead of what we say, make it a family ritual to do some progressive relaxation every day. Getting stressed out about whether or not our kids are relaxing enough won't work. LOL. We lead by example and the only way I know of to start a new habit is to build it into the schedule.
If you don't care for progressive relaxation, try this uninterrupted, sustained reading time. Set a timer and allow no activity other than reading until it goes off. The reading material is chosen by the reader. Non-readers simply browse some books of their choice. This is such an awesome and relaxing family ritual.
4. Feed them properly balanced meals and snacks with protein, healthy fats and slowly digested carbohydrates.
Kids naturally favor the carbs and they especially enjoy the ones that move quickly through their systems causing a spike in blood sugar that feels good and provides instant energy. However, spikes in blood sugar are bad for their immune systems.
Who could blame them for liking carbs? But realistically, we have to be the ones to make sure they balance their comfort food with plenty of good fats and proteins too. If they don't, that spike in blood sugar and the letdown that follows could be just enough of a stressor on their bodies to allow them to succumb to the viruses that we all know are lurking everywhere.
Some healthy snacks I like to serve kids to help with their immunity, hunger levels and behavior are listed below. I call these “feel good” snacks because they fill you up and tend to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Feel Good Snack Ideas
Omega-3 gluten free bread (recipe here) PB, and blueberries.
Organic strawberries with cashews and goat cheese, full fat or coconut milk
Apples and mild cheddar cheese, full fat or coconut milk
Grass-fed beef meatballs, oven-roasted zucchini in mild garlic and olive oil, side of tomato sauce, almonds
PB&J Joy! see photo below. Recipe found in The Book of Keto Joy! by Nanci J Bradley
Nanci J Bradley, 60, is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, SELF-care facilitator, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI.