By Rebecca Martin, FNP, Penn Yan School-Based Health Center, part of Finger Lakes Community Health.
When the cold weather arrives and your kids want to stay inside to play video games, or watch TV, what can you do to keep them active and healthy?
Encourage them to go outside.
Instill a love for the outdoors early in life by having your kids go outside for at least an hour a day during all seasons of the year. Sunshine and fresh air do a world of good for our kids. With sunshine, they get Vitamin D which is great for fundamental bone health and according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) it promotes immune health. Being physically active, eating well, and getting enough sleep all work to help enhance you and your children’s immune systems.
It’s too cold! How many times have you heard that from your kids? So be sure to check the weather and be mindful of the wind chill. Sometimes we have wet snow which is still a safe time to go outside but maybe for a shorter period. If they get wet, kids need to come back inside because wet clothes can no longer retain their body heat. Snowsuits work well as do lots of layers of sweaters, jackets, hats, and gloves.
How do you help kids from getting sick?
Of course, there are many ways to keep kids from getting sick. Lots of hand washing and encouraging them to cover their sneezes and coughs. When they blow their nose, they should wash their hands. If they’re at the tail end of a cold but still sneezing and coughing….they should wear a mask in school. If you tell them that’s the rule and they really want to go, kids tend to go along with wearing a mask. Also, remember to keep up with their vaccinations, particularly the flu and COVID-19 vaccines which are safe and effective for everyone 6 months and older.
Helping kids maintain good mental health in the winter.
To keep kids from going stir crazy in the winter be sure they’re active. We’ve already talked about having them go outside for an hour a day, but parents and guardians should look for other community activities including swimming lessons, gymnastics, or basketball. Of course, there’s outdoor activities like ice hockey and skating. The point is to be physically active, especially after sitting in class for hours.
If you notice that your child is starting to withdraw and plays with too much electronics, ask them to come out of their room and join you for board games or whatever they might be interested in. It’s important to say, “I love you and want to spend time with you.” If you notice that you’re doing this and they still seem withdrawn or their mood isn’t changing, it may be time to have a talk with your provider. Also, keep in mind that sleep is very important, especially with Daylight Savings Time. Be consistent with bedtime and waking them up on time as the clocks change.
Healthy balanced diets.
Of course, no article is complete about staying healthy without talking about nutrition. It’s particularly difficult as the kids
grow up and can access food and snacks that aren’t necessarily good for them. A balanced diet is the goal. You can’t completely eliminate less healthy snacks, but you can be sure they eat one non-healthy and one healthy snack each day. Be sure healthy foods are on hand as often as possible. Another nutrition tip is to avoid processed foods — like those from a box, can, or drive-through. Of course, this isn’t always possible but processed foods (boxed mac and cheese, for example) should be a treat and not an everyday occurrence. Whether you’re an adult or a child, limiting sodium-filled foods is very important.
The importance of water
Water is a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking water improves memory and attention, helps children maintain a healthy weight, reduces the risk for some chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and helps prevent dental cavities, if fluoridated. Yet 1 in 5 children and adolescents do not drink any plain water during the day, and about half of school-aged children are underhydrated.
It is important to note that children should drink the number of 8-ounce cups of water equal to their age, with a minimum of 64 ounces of water for children over the age of 8. These amounts do not include other beverages they may consume in a day such as milk and juice.
I hope you find these tips helpful as you weather the storm of the upcoming winter. You can find me at the Penn Yan School-Based Health Center. If you have a child there, enroll in this program and help your child get immediate care. Find out more here https://www.localcommunityhealth.com/schoolcenter/