Healthy parents raising healthy children

August celebrates Child Health Month. Children learn most from their greatest teachers: their parents. If you want your young ones to grow up smart, strong and healthy, then lead them in these 4 areas of life, and you’ll be off to a great start:

1. Combine vegetables and fruit with Maths

Here’s a nifty idea that combos 3 things that children don’t really like, but if they become second nature because they are a habit, they may stick with them for life. Create a home-made game focused on Maths, spelling or grammar using fruit and vegetables, and then spend time playing with your youngsters as you focus on the food.

Let’s say you decide on Maths. Each colour represents a unit of the decimal system. Tomatoes are multiples of 1,000. Peaches are multiples of 100. Bananas are multiples of 10. Cucumber slices are units of 1. Get your child to work out a series of numbers using the fruit and vegetables, and then let them calculate some simple Maths sums. At the end, symbolically “eat” the numbers or words and tell them that they are swallowing genius. This way they also eat their greens!

2. Get the bodies moving

Modern lifestyles are horribly sedentary – we sit in the car or the taxi, we sit at work and school, we sit in front of the TV or phone. A non-negotiable element of raising healthy children is exercise, which will strengthen the body into adulthood. Pack away the smartphone and the TV, and take the young ones outside for some fresh air and some fun time.

Play hide and go seek, throw a ball, jump in the pool if it’s summer and you have one, go for a walk in the park, play with the dog, jump on the trampoline, go for a run, have an egg-and-spoon race in the back yard or down the road (be mindful of traffic), go pick up rubbish on the beach. Your children will love you for the time spent together, and you will all get some exercise (you included, much to your doctor’s delight). Tired children also sleep better at night.

3. Make brushing teeth lots of fun

Cavities and gum disease are strongly related to oral hygiene, and the habits that children form in this area when they are young will last them a lifetime. Always ask your children if they have brushed their teeth, remind them, and do regular check-ups (sneak up on them and have some fun by surprising them in the bathroom).

Turn brushing teeth into ‘Idols’ by using the toothbrush as the microphone. Get them to sing along as they carefully brush both upper and lower teeth, spluttering through all the toothpaste as they belt out their favourite hit. Be careful that they don’t choke on or swallow toothpaste (excess fluoride can be harmful). So what if the bathroom has toothpaste splatters everywhere? All you’ll remember is how much fun you had.

4. Love, love and more love

The thing that children most need from their parents or guardians is love. If they know they are loved and cared for, they will always respond to your leadership and the way you try to steer their lives. A big part of them feeling loved is spending time with them, despite your busy schedule. Make sure that birthdays are extra special, and engage with your children in areas that they enjoy and are interested in.

When young ones mess up or they have to be disciplined, it is far more palatable if they know their parents really care. Work hard to create a loving environment for your children, for they are the world’s future.

Have a chat with your doctor about the best way to prepare meals for school, and how to handle sports injuries and other scrapes and bangs.

For more information please contact:
Dr V Moodley
Specialist Paediatrician
Ethekwini Hospital & Heart Centre
Tel: +27 (0) 31 581 2512 or

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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7 things Madiba taught us about healthy thinking

July is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is also the month when we commemorate Nelson Mandela Day and give 67 minutes of our time. This article highlights the benefits of maintaining a positive outlook in the face of adversity, as we learned from Madiba himself.

Could you imagine being locked up in the prime of your life, when you are just 43 years old, knowing that you will spend the rest of your life in prison? Could you imagine, by some miracle, that you are released when you are 71, when the best years of your life are over, and you have missed out on so much?

Nelson Mandela had a hard life – and yet he is widely regarded as one of the greatest statesmen in the world, because he turned all that negative energy into good deeds in his life, for South Africa, and for the world.

Here are 7 things we can learn from Madiba for our own healthy thinking this Mandela Day on 18 July, despite the difficulties we may personally face.

1. Look for the blessing in the crisis

There is sufficient research to show that stress shortens the gene caps (called telomeres) that protect our genes and help us live longer lives. When you go to your doctor for a check-up, they will remind you of this. Looking for the silver lining in the clouds of doubt and fear is what Madiba did for many years. He lived until he was 94 – very good innings!

2. Helping others is good for our health

Studies done in the 1950s and 1990s show that people who help others live as much as a decade or more longer than those who don’t. It’s like Einstein said: “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”

3. Focus on your passion

Nelson Mandela loved helping people. Like Mahatma Gandhi, it’s one of the reasons he became a lawyer.

What do you love doing? What is your unique and important contribution to the world? Food? Soccer? Animals? Dance? Music? Business? Being a great mom? Even Oprah says, find something that you love, and see how you can use it to serve other people.

4. Find a cause greater than yourself

Madiba had every reason to come out of prison bitter and angry, seeking revenge. But he didn’t. Why? Because he focused on the bigger picture: Liberating South Africa and all its people from the oppression of apartheid. Research has shown that when we focus on our greatest dreams, the amygdala, or animal brain, is disengaged, and the executive centre, for higher brain functioning, is activated instead. This gives our lives meaning.

5. When you give, you get back

Being kind and giving of yourself to others has been shown to help slow down the ageing process, reduce headaches, and alleviate depression. Many recovery programs advise that being of service to others actually helps you just as much.

6. Smile with gratitude

Did you ever see Madiba with a frown on his face? He was grateful for his life. Being grateful releases both dopamine and endorphins, which are some of the body’s natural chemicals involved in creating what is known as the “helper’s high” – great feelings associated with doing something good.

7. Never give up

Madiba never gave up on his dream to see a free South Africa. Living your dream will make you happier, so make sure you get the help you need today.

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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