“One large portion of sunshine and a junior portion of sunshine to go with it, please. That’ll be all.”
Oh, but if it were only that simple. Sunlight is precious for a number of reasons. It marks the beginning of a new day, warms your toes on winter mornings and carries a faint fragrance of childhood. And yet, it doesn’t quite play the role in our lives as it used to. We’ve become silent admirers of the sun, watching it from afar; through our office windows, on the Weather app on our phones, through our car wind screens.
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Our children have learned to live without it, what with Xboxes, laptops and televisions forming the foundation for a happy childhood today. The sun has been quietly forgotten. Sorry, sunshine.
The importance of the sun for children, is often overlooked; ignored even. Yet, sunlight plays an integral role in ensuring a healthy body for your child. In fact, it is the best source of vitamin D for your little one’s skin. No wonder it’s called the sunshine vitamin. The trouble is, your child may not get enough sunlight. As a result of our increasingly ‘indoorsy’ lifestyles, the sun is always just out of reach, and our children’s health, even more.
The sunshine vitamin is imperative for your child’s bone growth and development. It aids the body in absorbing calcium effectively and promotes insulin production and cell growth, amongst many other important functions. A deficiency of vitamin D, on the other hand, can cause rickets, and can prevent your child from reaching their genetically programmed height and optimal bone mass.
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The big question is how much sunshine should your child be getting? The answer depends largely on how old your child is. If you have an infant less than twelve months old, aim to give your baby about 10 micrograms of sunlight a day. Children older than 1 need about 15 micrograms.
It’s safe to say that you won’t be measuring sunshine in a jar to see how many micrograms you’re getting, so let’s make it easier. On average, researchers say that about 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 am and 3 pm, at least twice a week, is a recommended amount. Optimal sun absorption occurs around noon, and exposure to the sun in short spells is advisable to avoid sunburn. Also, unless your child is spending extended periods on the beach or at the pool, avoid sunscreens, as their chemical compositions can do more harm than good. Catching some sunshine needn’t be a tedious daily chore when it comes to your children. Introduce them to fun, outdoor games in the evenings, and the sun will do its job well. Vitamin D, check.
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Breast milk contains a plethora of essential nutrients. Well, everything except vitamin D. If you’re nursing an infant, consult your doctor to know how to optimise your baby’s vitamin D intake through supplements. If you have an older child, you can even serve some sunshine on a plate. Slip a yogurt cup into your child’s dabba, serve orange juice as an accompaniment to breakfast and don’t forget to prepare that glass of milk in the evening. These are all great sources of vitamin D.
That said, there’s really nothing that matches up to the sun as a source for vitamin D. Introduce your child to the sun this weekend. It’s about time you had a happy reunion.
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