This cold and flu season, you might be especially concerned about keeping your children healthy. There are many ways to do this, as I've written about previously. In addition, it's a great idea to make sure your children are getting enough vitamin D. These days, we sometimes don't get enough sunlight (either because we're inside a lot or because we're always wearing sunscreen) to generate our own vitamin D, so supplementing is recommended. Canada is considering adding vitamin D to the H1N1 regimen, and some medical experts believe children who are dying of the swine flu may have vitamin D deficiencies.
But aside from supplementing with vitamin D, one of the more important things you can do is teach your children to keep their hands out of the mouths, noses, and eyes.
This can be exceedingly difficult with some children. Babies actually need to explore things with their mouths, and many toddlers and preschoolers still seem to have this habit. (My preschooler is certainly one of them!)
Therefore, it's important to sit down with your child and discuss germs and how they are transmitted. Keep it simple: "Germs are all around us. We can't see them except through a microscope, but they are still there and they can make us very, very sick. That's why it's important to wash our hands a lot and not put our fingers or hands in our mouth, nose, or eyes."
While reminders are going to be necessary, nagging rarely works. Therefore, cement the concept by reading books about germs. I read Germs, Germs, Germs with my daughter; you might also try Germs Make Me Sick or Germs Are Not For Sharing.
You can also demonstrate germs to your child with some flour. Place white flour in a bowl and allow your child to play with it a little, until her hands are coated. Now allow your child to play with a washable toy. After a few minutes, show your child the flour on his toy. Show him that when you pick up the toy with your own clean hands, you get flour on them. Then say something like, "The flour is a lot like germs. Every time you touch something, germs get on it. And if you touch something that has germs on it, the germs get on your hands." Finally, have your child go to the sink and wash his hands thoroughly. (Soap them up and scrub every part of them while singing "Happy Birthday" or "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Then thoroughly wash the soap away with warm water.)
You can also try painting your child's nails with a clear thumb-sucking preventative, like Mavala. This won't prevent your child from putting her fingers in her nose or eyes, but it's a step in the right direction. You can also paint your girl's nails with a pretty nail polish. She'll quickly learn the polish gets ruined if she sucks her fingers or chews on her nails.
Another idea is to buy a book of tiny round stickers (available in the art or office supply section of most general stores, including Wal-Mart or The Dollar Tree). Allow your child to choose the stickers she wants, then place them on your child's fingernails. They will fall off if she puts her fingers in her mouth or nose.