Top Tips For Keeping Your Kids’ Immunity Strong

How can I boost my child’s immune system? This question was on pretty much every parent’s mind even before the COVID-19 virus came along. If you have young kids, you’ll know that winter means sniffles, coughs, post-nasal drips and disrupted sleep routines for the whole household.

Now that the worldwide pandemic has come into play, it’s even more important to take care of our children’s immunity so they are able to ward off infection. Preliminary findings suggest that children without any serious comorbidities aren’t as prone to the more serious symptoms of the novel coronavirus as adults are, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect them at all.

As always, the best course of action when it comes to disease prevention is to start by fortifying the body’s natural defences. Here are a few natural ways you can do so:

Feel them a varied diet of whole foods

Children can be picky eaters, but settling for a diet of plain spaghetti and tomato sauce will set you up for failure every time. The most important thing you can do for your kid’s immunity is to make sure that they enjoy a varied diet of natural whole foods. This includes carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Children imitate the behaviour of their parents, so if you want them to eat healthily in order to boost their immune system, you may need to take a look at the behaviour you’re modelling. Do you scoff a coffee and a Danish in the drop-off lane on the way to school, or do you take some time to make overnight Bircher oats so you can have a nutritious breakfast without too much faffing in the morning?

Making food from scratch at home is another way to pave the way for healthy eating habits. Children are far more likely to eat a salad that they had a hand in making, even if they only crumbled over the feta cheese, or helped by adding a handful of pumpkin seeds. Do some meal planning, make meal prep a bit of an event, and see what a difference it makes in their attitude in the long run.

If all else fails, remember to make food fun. There are great Instagram accounts you can follow to get some inspiration, such as this one, and this one.

Make sure they drink enough water

A well-hydrated body is a healthy body. Studies show that drinking enough water can go a long way to boosting the body’s natural immune system. Encourage your kids to drink water throughout the day – they need at least two to four cups per day by the age of two already. Sometimes all it takes is investing in a fun water bottle.

Once again, you can’t expect your children to do something you don’t, so start by focussing on proper hydration yourself and take it from there.

Prioritise sufficient sleep

Healthy, natural sleep is one of the best ways to boost a child’s immune system. Sleep and immune function are closely linked, as proven by academic studies in this regard. Children need a lot of sleep to support their growth and development. In fact, kids under the age of five need as much as 12 hours of sleep per day (naps counted).

As such, it’s very important to ensure that children have a steady, predictable bedtime routine that helps them to wind down at night. A good rule of thumb is to feed them a protein-rich early dinner around 18:00, get them bathed and dressed in their PJs by 19:00 and have them tucked away in their beds by 20:00.

Develop your own bedtime rituals as a family – play some soothing music, keep the lights low, read their favourite books, etc. The most important thing to remember is to halt screen time at least two hours before bedtime – the blue light emitted by devices like cell phones, tablets and TVs keep their brains active and awake, which is the inverse of what you’re trying to achieve.

Get them moving in a fun way

According to the findings of academic studies, sufficient daily exercise is linked to a healthy immune system, particularly in children and younger people. Inspire your kids to get moving by making exercise fun. Using it as a ‘stick’ rather than a ‘carrot’ (e.g. if you don’t play outside for 30 minutes, I’ll lock away the tablet) is not the way to go.

Instead, try making it a family-related activity. Go for walks in a nearby green zone, or better yet, go hiking over a weekend. Alternatively, simply go for a 30-minute walk in the neighbourhood or play fetch with the dog in the garden. You can also host an impromptu dance party in the kitchen. The key is to keep it fun.

These are just a few of the natural ways in which you can boost your child’s immune system. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your kids by trying it all at once – start by doing one thing, get used to it, and then weave in the next. The more time you give your family to adapt to a new behaviour, the better the odds are that it will become a healthy habit.

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