Friday, February 01, 2008

Kid ‘n play

It may not be the most polite conclusion to come to, but most of us think it at one time or another: kids make me sick - literally. They forget to wash their hands, they share sips from each other's cups and bites from each other's forks, give the ol' "wet willy" in the ear, aren't yet too embarrassed to pick their noses in public and could be considered a germ's best friend. Kids just don't understand.

There is some hope, however. If we can make staying healthy fun, we can help kids catch on — which will be especially important if we're faced with a pandemic flu strain. So, lesson one: Prevention is fun!

Health experts agree that handwashing is probably the least expensive but most effective way to not get sick. To get kids in the habit, make handwashing something to look forward to, which isn't too hard since some pretty fun ingredients are already involved: water, soap and bubbles. It's recommended that you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, so tell kids to sing their favorite song while handwashing, see who can make the most bubbles and who can get the best lather. Encourage kids to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze by buying pretty tissues, or get crafty and help kids make their own handkerchiefs and tissue holders.

Lesson two: Getting ready can be fun for everybody! Preparing for a possible flu pandemic or any other emergency is key and should involve the whole family. So why not have a little fun along the way? When assembling items for your emergency preparedness kit, hide the items around the house and lawn and create a scavenger hunt. Invite your kids to a family pizza party and talk about creating an emergency communications and meeting place plan. Let the kids decorate your emergency kit containers, pick out fun board games to include in the kits or let them pick one special item — a toy or a stuffed animal — that stays with the kit as well.

So even though kids are particularly vulnerable to spreading germs and getting sick, they're also vulnerable to having fun. And that's one vulnerability we should take advantage of.

Photo by Debi Bishop, courtesy iStockphoto.

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