Attention winter campers! Fall has come and gone and cold and flu season is here! It seems like once school starts and the thermometer drops, everyone starts to get sick — and the same cold gets passed around from house to house all winter long. We checked in with our camp nurses to get some tips for getting through the winter in great shape. They’re our resident experts on kids’ immune systems — and on what we can do as parents to make sure our children stay healthy and happy all year long. Here’s what they recommend:
In addition to being important for general good health, exercise boosts immunity. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean kids can’t get out and play. Exposure to cold weather isn’t what makes kids sick; colds and viruses are more common in the winter mostly because we spend more time indoors in close proximity with other people. Encourage your kids to get outside and play all year round.
Don’t skip breakfast
Getting kids to eat a healthy breakfast can be tough. (Believe us, we understand. Try getting 350 of them to eat a balanced meal every morning!) But while breakfast isn’t necessarily the most important meal of the day, it’s a crucial part of your children’s morning. Kids need breakfast to help keep them energized and focused during the school day. Studies show that children who don’t eat breakfast are more prone to obesity and are more likely to rack up tardies and absences at school. Check out these fun breakfast recipes and more at Ready, Set, Breakfast!
Clean hands = healthy hands
Hand washing is the absolute number-one best way to reduce the spread of germs and sickness. At camp, we encourage girls to wash their hands regularly, and we also keep the Dining Hall stocked with hand sanitizer so campers can quickly and easily clean up at mealtimes. Get kids in the habit of washing their hands with warm water and soap before and after eating and after using the restroom, blowing their noses, coughing, sneezing and playing outside. Make sure they know to lather and scrub for about 20 seconds — about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” two times.
A good night’s sleep is absolutely crucial for children and teenagers. Tired kids have a hard time focusing in school, and a tired body will have a harder time fighting off a virus than a rested one. More importantly, sleep is essential to growth and organ development. While children sleep, their bodies produce growth hormone, and energy that’s used for other activities during the day can be diverted to promoting growth. If getting to sleep is a problem at your house, doctors recommend not keeping electronics (TVs, iPods, phones, video games) in the bedroom. Try to get kids unplugged before bedtime to help them settle down for the night.
Walk your talk
At the end of the day, kids will follow the lead of the adults they respect. (That’s why we spend so much time teaching our counselors how to be good role models.) So if you model the behaviors you want them to learn — staying active, eating healthy meals, hand washing, getting good sleep — they’ll be more likely to adopt them.