Sleep is essential to good health at any time of year, and when the days are long it can be more difficult to get curious, energetic children to go to bed early. Winter has the advantage of more hours of darkness, and it’s natural to want to hibernate a little. Aim for at least 10 hours a night for 6-year-olds and up, and longer for younger children.
Good nutrition helps us to stay healthy, and that’s never more important than in winter, when we need a strong immune system to battle germs and viruses. Make sure children get at least five portions of different types of fruit and veg daily. Make hearty soups and stews laden with vegetables, and add fresh or stewed apples to bowls of porridge. Don’t forget to make sure they stay hydrated too. They’ll get water from their food – especially from foods like soup – but they also need to drink plenty of fluids.
Whether indoors or outdoors, make sure they are always warm enough. Think layers, and keep exposed skin to a minimum when they go outside. If you have been enjoying a great time sledging, building a snowman, or get caught out by the weather, then as soon as you get home, get children out of wet clothes and footwear and dry them off. While it’s true that feeling cold won’t cause anyone to catch a cold, if they are already carrying the virus it might allow symptoms to develop. This is because when we become chilly the blood vessels in the nose constrict, which reduces the body’s natural defences.
It can be tempting to stay indoors as much as possible in winter, but getting out into the fresh air and staying active is essential – and outdoor air is likely to be cleaner than stuffy indoors environments where germs can thrive and spread. Find outdoor activities to do with your children in winter, if you’re lucky enough to have snow in winter, take the opportunity to go outside and play in the snow. If you don’t have snow, take them on winter walks and discover nature anyway.
Thorough and regular hand-washing is necessary all year round, but in winter it’s an essential element of preventing illness. Germs spread by contact or by indirectly touching unclean equipment and surfaces. We either breathe in droplets of mucus after someone has coughed or sneezed near us, or pick germs up from objects they’ve touched after coughing or sneezing into their hand, or touching their nose or mouth. It’s more important that hands are washed with soap than that the water is scalding hot – it should be at a temperature that allows the child to keep their hands in the water stream without discomfort. Encourage them to work the soap around their fingers and thumbs, and rub their palms together, then to rinse off all the soap suds and dry their hands thoroughly. It’s also a good idea to provide plenty of tissues and encourage children to use them when they cough or sneeze, to catch germs and prevent them spreading.
Date of Prep: November 2016