When you have kids, you quickly learn that you are not in control any more. Little people have big needs — and their needs always trump yours. You can guide and redirect and urge and beg and plead, but there will always be messes and there will always be chaos. Just the other day I saw a meme that said that cleaning with kids is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. And it’s so true: You scrub and scrub but nothing ever gets clean. Or you turn around and there’s a new mess or a toilet full of toilet paper. (Ask me how I know.)
Kids are big tornadoes in little packages. So while there is a lot at our house that seems out of control, there is actually a lot that I do control, particularly when it comes to their wellbeing. Sure, they may not always agree with having to brush their teeth, and they may not understand exactly why they can’t have candy for dinner, but it’s my job to instill as many good habits as I can before they fly the coop (many years from now). Here’s the laundry list of how I try to keep my kids feeling good all year round!
7 Healthy Habits I Always Enforce
1. Regular doctor visits. Within days of your baby being born, you’re at the pediatrician’s office for a weigh-in. After that, it seems like you’re there every other week. It’s a bit of a chore to hit all of the well-baby visits those first two years, but it’s so important! It helps make sure your baby is growing on pace and hitting developmental milestones — not to mention getting the recommended vaccines. It also helps you develop a good relationship with the doctor so that when you call the office at midnight on a weekend, you can feel comfortable with the advice you’re getting. There’s nothing more reassuring than hearing that you don’t need to worry about a fever and that you can just come in the next day.
2. Fruits and veggies. My kids are at their hungriest when I start making dinner. It’s like they know I actually need to concentrate and they choose that moment to beg for food. So while I serve fruits and veggies at mealtimes, I also try to have them handy for pre-dinner munchies. Plus, when they genuinely are hungry, they’re more likely to get in a good serving of fruits or veggies before the meal. Winning!
3. Vitamins. A balanced diet is a good base for overall health, but don’t you sometimes wonder how your kiddo survives on two bites of chicken and a pinch of rice? If you like to give your kids multivitamins to fill in those nutritional gaps, Zarbee’s is my new favorite. They’ve got vitamins specially formulated for specific ages from toddler to pre-teen. They’re sweetened with honey (no high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners), contain only natural flavors, and are made from fruit-based pectin, so there is no funny business hiding in them. My honest opinion? They taste fantastic. I’ve been giving them to my kiddos and they get excited each time — and I always sneak a couple too. I also love the Fiber Gummy, which ensures that they get 3 grams of fiber in two gummies. They’re brand-new and available exclusively at Target.
4. Hand washing. When you’ve got small kids in the house, illness is inevitable. There is just no escaping the runny noses, coughing, fevers, ear infections, pink eye and various other illnesses that are a rite of childhood passage. I do everything I can to keep germs to a minimum, and so far we’ve been pretty lucky this school year to have caught only a couple of minor colds. I’m always so proud when I can contain an illness to one or two kids. If I can escape the cold despite wiping runny noses and being coughed on, even better.
Kids like to touch everything, and I mean everything — from the inside of their noses to the bottoms of their feet to the toilet seat and beyond. Frequent handwashing, particularly when someone has a cold, can really cut down on the spread of germs. Make sure the soap is plentiful, the water is warm and drill it into kiddos that they need to wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before eating. I also try to keep surfaces in my house clean and sanitized. I buy disinfecting wipes in bulk and wipe down tables and chairs constantly. I also use disinfecting spray for surfaces like the toilet, sinks, door handles and the surface of the trash can. (Why do my kids touch the trash can lid so much?)
5. Outdoor play. Exercise is crucial to kids’ physical well-being. When we don’t have time to get outside—or it’s too cold or rainy to do so — I always pay the price at about 6 p.m. in the form of the kids running laps in the house like maniacs and trying to do flips off the couch. It’s like they have a daily quota of energy-burn to fill. It’s much easier to let them outside to run around for an hour or take them to the park where they can climb to their hearts’ content (and not break the lamp).
6. Prioritize sleep. Sleep, glorious sleep. I’m a strict bedtime enforcer — even on the weekends I make sure my kiddos are in bed at a reasonable hour. For them, that means hitting the hay at 8 p.m. Occasionally we’ll push it if we’re watching a movie or if it’s a special occasion, but that just increases the odds of all out emotional turmoil when they get overtired. Plus, getting good nights of sleep regularly helps their little bodies recover from the day.
7. Practice good “illness hygiene.” Guess what happens when kids have runny noses? They’re disgusting. And kids don’t know any better than to wipe snot with the backs of their hands and T-shirts and heaven knows what else. (Blanket handy? SURE!) Make sure you have boxes of tissues stashed around the house so they learn to capture the mess — and so you can grab one quickly when they have a major snot-blowout. I instill the “cough and sneeze in your elbow” policy, and it does help (most of the time).
Zarbee’s also makes 99% Honey Cough Soothers, so you can soothe your family’s irritated throats with honey and natural mint flavors. (I can vouch that they’re tasty and subtly minty/menthol-flavored. The packaging is adorable, too.) Available at CVS, those are suitable for the 5 and up crowd.
Do you have any healthy habits you’re trying to instill in your kids? —Erin