Keeping kids healthy as school starts can be a difficult task, especially as routines transition from summer fun to more fixed schedules and expectations. Here are a few safe and natural ways to help your kids stay healthy throughout the school year, written by Kelly Wilson, an editor for Teaching Resource Center.

Natural Ways to Keep Kids Healthy During the School Year

Teach Kids About Germs

For younger children who are concrete thinkers, the idea of invisible germs can be tough to grasp. This activity will help demonstrate that germs are all around us as well as how they spread.

For this activity, you’ll need the following materials:

  • Nutmeg (glitter will also work)
  • Lotion or petroleum jelly
  • cloths
  • soap, cold water and warm water

Put a small amount of lotion or petroleum jelly into each child’s hand, explaining that they need to rub them together. Sprinkle nutmeg over their hands, directing them to rub them together a second time for distribution purposes, and explain that the nutmeg is like germs we can’t see just with our eyes.

Go through your normal routine, allowing the “germs” to disperse – a half hour should do it. Then, have your child try to remove the “germs” by using a dry cloth. Try a second time, this time using only cold water. Finally, remove the “germs” by using soap and warm water, washing for 20 seconds.

Discuss with your child which way worked the best to remove the nutmeg “germs,” and investigate the room. Is there nutmeg anywhere else besides their hands? Explain that this is how germs spread, and use a cloth with soap and warm water to remove all traces of the nutmeg.

Teach Prevention Skills

Prevention skills are important for overall health. Kids can use these skills at home, during play dates, and throughout the school day to help stay healthy.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet and drink a lot of water – fresh, seasonal vegetables help build our immune systems naturally
  • Exercise regularly as a family – take frequent walks or bike rides
  • Get plenty of rest – our bodies need relaxation to help manage stress and fight off illness
  • Consider a daily multi-vitamin and vitamin-C supplement
  • Cough into an elbow instead of into hands
  • Avoid sharing food and utensils
  • Wash hands often throughout the day

Since the Swine Flu scare the last couple of years, antibacterial products of all kinds have become available. Unfortunately, many of these contain toxins that are ultimately not good for us. Invest in all-natural soap and cleaning products to help avoid toxic chemicals but still help your children stay healthy.

A Hand Washing Song

Children don’t always like to wash their hands thoroughly (I know mine don’t), so I try to make it more fun. To be considered clean and germ-free, hands should be washed for a full twenty seconds, which is the equivalent of singing Happy Birthday through twice.

Instead of singing the traditional birthday song, try this one out, sung to the tune of Happy Birthday:

Washing hands can be fun
Make germs take a run
Use warm soap and water
In 20 seconds, you’re done!

Instead of singing the same verse twice, work together with your children to make up a silly second verse. Another option is to use the tunes of other well-known songs, like Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (also known as the ABC song) or My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean. Your kids will love the chance to make up funny hand-washing songs to use over and over again!

When Kids Get Sick

In spite of our best efforts, our children will get sick – this is normal. Our bodies are powerful germ-fighters, and illness helps strengthen our immune systems. The common cold is the most familiar culprit, lasting about two weeks. Symptoms are uncomfortable but, even with a fever, not dangerous.

For those of us who want to avoid heading straight for over-the-counter remedies, there are a few options:

  • Nasal Irrigation – there are many products out there, including the neti pot, that will help clean out mucus naturally. Saline nasal spray also helps relieve congestion for shorter periods of time.
  • Provide warm, hearty soups and hot tea with lemon.
  • Avoid dairy products like milk or yogurt that promote phlegm production.
  • Rest, rest, rest – sleep is a wonderful all-natural remedy for illness.
  • Wait before going to the doctor – even with a fever, it’s important to give your children time to fight off a viral infection. Going to the doctor too soon can result in the doctor telling you that the illness is a viral infection which needs time to play out, or in unnecessary antibiotics.

These safe and natural methods will help your kids stay healthy throughout the school year!

Kelly Wilson is an editor for Teaching Resource Center, a Teacher Store providing high-quality, low-cost Teacher Supplies for over 25 years.

*Image courtesy of Spoonful of Comfort.*