All kids deserve to be healthy – in body and mind

It’s a myth: if we raise our kids right, we won’t worry when they get older.

The first day we brought them home from the hospital, we worried. And each day they grew older, our concern only multiplied: Illnesses, injuries, friendships, and the list goes on and on. Simply put, we would do anything to see our kids healthy and happy, and we learn arguably just as much as they do as we go through life with them.

With kids, the very best we can do is to model health in the home so later in life their health continues to be good practice. Here are a few tips to keep your kid ‘feeling like a kid’ year-round:

Eat up: Our children rely on us for love, and they also rely on us for food. Parents understand that when kids are hungry, they want to eat right now. But what is quick to satisfy is not always healthy. To encourage better eating habits, associate healthy foods with fun things kids are familiar with – for example, broccolis as ‘little trees’, mandarin oranges as ‘Nemos’ – get creative, or let the kids get creative. Sensory food play either works or it doesn’t, but we’re willing to try anything at least once to see our kids eat right. Not all of us have time to cut sandwiches into initials, but going the extra mile to make food fun is at the very least memorable.

Give a daily probiotic. Ever heard there is such a thing as “good” bacteria? That’s not a myth. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for our health and immunity, essentially acting as extra armor for our kids when they’re especially vulnerable. Several options ideal for kids include daily probiotic chewables, liquid probiotic which is great for supplementing via juice, and Greek yogurt is packed with probiotics.

Promote frequent hand-washing: The age-old practice continues to outshine most tricks to staying away from traveling sicknesses – simply washing our hands properly before meals, after using the restroom, after touching or playing with animals, and after blowing our noses, sneezing, and coughing. Little kids (and some big kids, too) may require extra nudges toward the sink, but every effort adds up to create a habit. Hand washing remains the best way to prevent the spread of germs.

Encourage plenty of play-time and exercise: In this day an age, tech can be difficult to avoid, but there’s nothing like an old-fashioned frolic outside or an all-out toy jamboree in the play room. When mom, dad, grandpa, grandma or siblings get involved, this is especially fun for the child, but your interaction isn’t always necessary for them to stay occupied. Lack of physical activity is a major cause of childhood illness and can contribute to obesity, so we must make sure our kids are staying busy having fun!

Provide extra support during back-to-school: There’s no denying it anymore: summer has come to an end and the days until school begins are numbered. Kids spend more than 1,200 hours in school annually, making it critical to prioritize our child’s physical and emotional well-being. School hours are the prime time for kids of all ages to engage in physical activity, social and emotional stimulation and eat healthily, but this should be happening at home as well. Check in with your children regularly and address any anxieties they may have about the new school year, and get them scheduled to see their primary care physician for important immunizations and screening to help them be their healthiest.

Emphasize the importance of sleep. Don’t we all love sleep? Nevermind – kids don’t always look forward to it, but parents know they need it. When kids fight sleep, curve it with a good model and surround bedtime with positive talk. Sleep allows the body to restore and repair itself. Routine is everything, and getting our kids into the swing of a good sleep schedule means better sleep for us as well. Books, bath, and bed may feel like a triathalon, but there are plenty of other great methods to attempt. Let’s be honest, we’ll risk it for a little more sleep!

Commit to annual well-child visits. Not just when they’re sick, but when they’re well – that’s the reason they’re call well-child visits. Important screenings and vaccines are critical to keep your child’s health in alignment and are a key intervention at these appointments. Additionally, your child will be assessed for physical and emotional needs, receiving growth checks and talking through developmental milestones. While those annual check-ups seems like just another daunting task in your already-hectic schedule as a parent, they are essential to your child’s healthy future. Schedule your child’s visit with a family practice provider at Avera Medical Group Sibley by calling 712-754-3658.

No matter what, our kids need healthy models in the home. Whether it’s buying that pack of blueberries, shooing them outside or chasing them to the sink after Saturday breakfast to wash their hands, it all adds up to help them grow in mind and spirit. Stay on course with doing what’s best for them – they may not notice the little things, but they will eventually feel the immense love.