Healthy During the Holidays

In the midst of holiday celebrations, schedules can become hectic and routines hard to follow. Interrupted routines can affect mood and attitude, as well as sleep patterns, especially for infants and toddlers. Having older siblings on holiday break, spending time with loved ones, attending holiday parties, and traveling can all impact our ability to keep infants and toddlers on a daily schedule. Yet we should strive for routine during this time, as a routine provides a sense of safety and security for children, according to “Creating Routines for Love and Learning” by Zero to Five. As part of our mission at First 5 San Diego to support families and children ages 0-5, we recommend a few ways to keep everyone on a healthy routine throughout the holidays while still allowing for the fun spontaneity of the season.

Outdoor activities
Baking, holiday get-togethers, and present wrapping, combined with dipping temperatures, make it easy to spend a majority of time indoors. Set aside a few minutes a day to take advantage of the mild year-round weather we enjoy in San Diego. Take the children out for a walk or stop by the park for 15 or 30 minutes of play time for some fresh air and exercise. If you need to slow down, simply read a book with your child on a blanket in the grass.

Screen time
In the midst of the chaos of the season, it is easy to rely on electronics to keep fussy and restless little ones occupied. Try to limit the amount of time that even the youngest children spend in front of the screen to no more than two hours a day. Use interactive activities or even story time to occupy the rest of their time – this can help parents and caregivers to slow down and enjoy the season as well. Remember to Talk, Read, Sing to try and use 30,000 words a day with your child under the age of three to help develop his/her vocabulary and impact his/her IQ (A list of recommended holiday books for children is at the end of this article).

Travel with Kids
Be sure to pack interactive toys and books to keep children occupied. If your child has a blanket or other item that helps them sleep, remember to take it on the trip and keep it within easy reach. If holiday travel takes you to a different time zone, try to keep children on a similar time schedule. For instance, if a child goes to bed at home at eight, put them to bed at eight in the different time zone and do the same for wake up as well as nap times.

Good Eating Habits
For children eating solid foods, Medical Daily in “Holiday Season Tips on Healthy Eating for Kids” suggests to give kids fruits or veggies to fill up on before going to a holiday party. The healthy snacks will help make them less hungry for the unhealthy food typically available at holiday parties. Take your toddlers through the food line with you and select their food and portions together. This will give the toddler a sense of input while keeping you in control of what makes it onto their plate.

We all know the importance of young children getting enough sleep. The busyness of the holiday season can make sticking to sleep schedules difficult. If you’re attending a holiday event in the evening with the little ones, try to plan ahead and be prepared with pajamas and other necessary items to put your little one to sleep on the go. If older siblings are out of school, keeping them on a regular bedtime and wake up schedule will help keep infants and toddlers on a good sleep schedule as well.

Holiday Books for Children
berenstain_tThe Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving
Does your kid have a case of the holiday gimmes? Brother and Sister Bear do too, until they learn what Christmas is really all about.

best_tThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Remember this one from when you were a kid? Older children will love this 1972 classic, in which the six misbehaving Herdman kids take over the church pageant and reinterpret the story of Christmas.

201511-dream-snowDream Snow
Lovers of Eric Carle’s classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar will recognize the same iconic collage illustrations in this wintry tale about a farmer who dreams about a white Christmas. Like Caterpillar, the pages hold extra interest for young readers, with cutouts and counting.

201511-kwanzaaLi’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa
Brer Rabbit meets African tradition in this tale of a rabbit looking for something special to give his sick grandmother for Karamu, the Kwanzaa feast.

snowmen_tSnowmen at Christmas
The secret life of snowmen is revealed as snow families gather in the town square, sing carols and get their own visit from “the snowman Kris Kringle” before re-assuming their positions in the front yard as dawn breaks.

olivia_tOlivia Helps with Christmas
The plucky piglet gets her house ready for Christmas, “helping” her parents in the most unhelpful ways possible. The charming black and white illustrations—punctuated with green and red accents for the holidays—play off the spare words to tell the whole story.

201511-corduroyHappy Hanukkah, Corduroy
The sweet stuffed bear in overalls offers toddlers an introduction to the traditions of Hanukkah, from lighting the menorah and hunting for gelt to playing dreidel.