There have been a few surprising things I’ve learned in my experience and research concerning young children. Here are a few facts you may not know (I didn’t!)
Young children do not need daily baths
According to the Mayo Clinic infants should not be bathed more than a couple times a week at most due to their sensitive skin. Over-bathing an infant can cause dry skin and make them uncomfortable.
And the bath doesn’t have to be submersion in water. It can just be a simple wipe down with a soft cloth, some baby shampoo (if desired), and warm water.
The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that children do not need to start bathing on a daily basis until they hit puberty. Excess hormones can cause body odor and oily skin, so teens and pre-teens should bathe more frequently than their younger counterparts.
Children don’t feel temperature the same way adults do
Do you have a child who refuses to wear a coat in the winter, or insists on wearing his favourite long-sleeved Christmas shirt all summer long? You’re not alone. Dr. Aaron Martin writes that children are not fully developed yet, and are much more active than adults. They often don’t feel temperature the same way that we do, especially cold. And they love playing outside regardless of the temperature.
Here is what I would suggest: if there is no danger of them seriously harming their health (frostbite or hypothermia), it probably isn’t worth the fight to wear the coat. They aren’t lying when they tell you that they’re not cold. So if they are perfectly comfortable, and can play better without the extra layers, let them play! Remember: just because you’re feeling cold doesn’t mean that they are.
That being said, if it is cold enough to pose a danger to them playing safely outside without a coat, either insist on the coat, or monitor how long they are allowed to play outside at a time.
Being cold has very little to do with catching a cold
If you’re worried that your child going outside without a coat is going to expose them to the possibility of catching a cold, put your worries aside. They aren’t based on fact.
Colds are a viral infection caused by the rhinovirus. In fact, viruses cannot actually survive in very cold temperatures, so many countries which experience colder temperatures also experience less colds. Dr. Martin presents some interesting research from Scandinavian countries, in which children are regularly bundled up and put outside to nap even when it is cold. These people rightly assume that fresh air is healthier for children than being cooped up inside. This is exactly how germs spread: a lot of children all stuffed together with very little fresh air to keep the germs from spreading.
Allowing your children to play outside all winter long may even prevent them from getting sick.
Watching TV before bedtime impedes sleep
This is true for adults and children alike. Watching a screen before going to sleep tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. This impedes the brain’s production of melatonin – the sleep hormone. Your child’s ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep they get will be reduced.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, infants need between 12-15 hours of sleep every day, while toddlers and preschoolers need 10-14.
I know plenty of families who put on a movie or show in the evening to help get the children to wind down before bedtime. You may be one of those families.
Let me encourage you to have a story time instead, or listen to an audio book or music without staring at a bright screen. These will have a similar effect of helping children wind down, but without the harsh light that prevents melatonin production.
Nobody wants grumpy children. Do yourself a favour and help your children get the best sleep they can so they can wake up cheerful and refreshed!
Low-fat milk is not best for children (or anyone!)
Contrary to popular belief, eating and drinking low fat dairy is not doing people any favours with regards to weight loss. In fact, recent studies from the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, and the Archives of Disease in Childhood show that children who drink lower-fat milk are at higher risk for obesity than those who consume whole milk.
While this definitely seems counterintuitive, there are some theories bouncing around to try and explain these research findings.
The main explanation that has been suggested is simply that higher fat content increases feelings of satiety (fat is what triggers your brain to know when you’re full), which means children eat less. In any case, allowing children full-fat dairy rather than low-fat seems to be healthier in the long run.
What are some other surprising health tips for children you’ve learned about? Let me know!