We know the drill. It’s only Monday, and not only do you have to find dress-up clothes (for the fourth dress-up day this school term) by tomorrow, you also have to factor in a three-o-clock meeting with a colleague, and then find time to think about what’s for dinner. With parents’ crazy busy schedules and lists of 1001 things to do, remembering to make sure kids are eating and drinking properly can be a challenge. Add Ramadan to the mix, and things can get a little, um, crazy. Don’t panic though. We put together five helpful tips that will not only ensure that you stay on top of things during this special time – taking great care of both your kids and yourself – but, dare we say it, you might even be able to throw in a little fun while you’re at it.
1. WELCOME THE WATER
We know it’s kind of obvious, but it has to be said: it’s really important to make sure your little ones are drinking enough water outside of fasting hours. You’ll be glad to know that kids don’t actually get dehydrated easily. When they do, it’s usually because they’re losing fluid, not because they aren’t drinking enough. Fruit is a great source of water, so if your child is fasting, add a vibrant fruit salad to iftar and suhoor. If your kids don’t do fruit, go for organic juices and yoghurt-based drinks. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 350ml (12oz) of juice per day.
So, how do you know if your child is dehydrated? If their mouth seems dry, they aren’t peeing as often as usual, their breathing and heart rate speeds increase slightly, their arms and legs feel cool to the touch, and their eyes are sunken, they might not be getting enough water. If you’d like to check your child’s hydration levels, press on the nail bed of one of their fingers until it goes white. If it takes more than two seconds for the nail to turn pink again when you let go, they’re probably slightly dehydrated. You can also gently squeeze a fold of skin on your little one’s belly, hold it for a few seconds, and let go. If it takes longer than two seconds for the skin to return to normal, your child may need more fluids. If you suspect your child is severely hydrated and cannot hold down fluids or food, it’s best to consult a pediatrician for advice immediately.
Mariam (34), a Dubai-based mum of three, has a fantastic hack when it comes to reminding her kids to drink. She says, “When I’m fasting but my kids aren’t, I set my alarm every one-and-a-half hours to remind them to drink water. If I’m in the office, I ask my nanny to set her alarm so I know that the kids are getting all the fluids they need.”
Make hydration fun by… getting your children involved in water prep, chopping up their favourite fruits and herbs to add to their water bottles for an infusion of flavour. Cucumber, mint, lemon and pomegranate are all wonderful options. Check out our whimsical Roald Dahl water bottle (AED72) as a great on-the-go option for little and big people.
2. SAY GOODBYE, SUGAR
Sugar is one of the key villains behind childhood obesity, and it’s hidden in almost everything we eat. Be careful of adding sugar to homemade or traditional fruit drinks because the fructose component of sucrose (table sugar) or high-fructose syrup is suspected to impact how our livers work, increasing the risk of diabetes. Incidentally, eating sugar makes you crave more sugar, so serving up carbonated drinks at iftar or suhoor can actually leave you and your kids feeling more hungry and thirsty. The same goes for serving sweet stuff at any other time during the day. Removing sugar from a child’s diet and sticking to water and milk is a much healthier long-term alternative and will help your little one make healthier lifestyle choices.
Make saying goodbye to processed sugar fun by… teaching your kids that they don’t need ‘fake’ sugar, showing them how delicious naturally sweet ingredients are. If you have bananas that are turning brown in the fruit basket, slice them up into ‘coins’, pop them in a container or zip-lock bag and freeze them. When the kids want a treat, whip the frozen banana coins out and blend them up in a food processor, using a teaspoon of milk to ‘loosen’ them up. You’ll have instant banana ice cream that – we promise – actually tastes just like the real thing. This eco-friendly knight-themed bamboo fibre Pasito a Pasito Dinner Set (AED121) boasts a bowl that’s perfect for serving up a scoop (or two) in.
3. SAY NO TO OVEREATING
Well-meaning parents who are concerned about their children’s calorific intake during Ramadan – or in general – can sometimes encourage their kids to overeat. Aside from being an unhealthy habit that doesn’t allow your child to learn when he or she is naturally full, it can also lead to indigestion, bloating and even vomiting – especially after a day of fasting. To prevent this, split your child’s iftar into two or three smaller nutrient-rich meals and space them one-and-a-half hours apart to help your little one digest his or her food more easily. If you’re serving a heavy main, follow it up with fruit or light salad (or a small scoop of the banana ice cream we mentioned earlier).
Make eating just enough fun by… opening dialogue at the table and showing your children that you trust them to know when they are full. Making young people feel included at the table – by giving them their own special plates or cutlery, for example – can help them develop a healthy relationship with both family and food. Why not add this gorgeous Elite Boxes Flower Fairies Cutlery Set (AED60) to the next meal?
5. JUST RELAX
We all know that kids love running around, but if they’re fasting during Ramadan it’s good to try and get them to take it easy so they don’t get dehydrated. Maintain your children’s happiness (and your sanity) by having a variety of indoor activities and games on offer at home. If they’re adamant about playing outdoors, plan activities during the evening and around greener areas to avoid overheating. Also, you might want to encourage your child to nap during the afternoon if he or she is likely to be up late for iftar and suhoor.
Make relaxing fun by… showing your children some of the nostalgic games you used to play as a child. Snakes and Ladders can keep kids busy for hours, as can Pick Up Sticks. Alternatively, use play time to bond over this Djeco 100-Piece Puzzle (AED55). For something a little more creative (and messy), pop your minis in the bath or shower and get them to paint surrounding tiles using non-toxic, easy-to-wash-off paints.