Excitable, ‘go-fast' kids are full of excitement and life, but hyperactivity can affect their performance in the classroom, not to mention drive you round the bend every now and then.
Through examining diet and analysing hair switches from her 15-year-old Townsville practice, naturopath and author Jennifer Jefferies observed that zinc to copper imbalance is a major cause of hyperactivity in children. Another finding was the way calcium and magnesium level ratios affected sleep patterns.
"If they're low in calcium compared to magnesium, they might have trouble getting to sleep, and if they're low in magnesium in relation to calcium, they may have trouble staying asleep," Jefferies says.
Her remedy? For calcium deficiencies, have a glass of milk before bed and make sure they're eating enough dark green vegetables. And for a magnesium boost, opt for nuts and seeds ground up and served in a tempting afternoon smoothie.
Also a devoted aromatherapy advocate, Jefferies recommends calming kids down by burning oils before bedtime. While lavender is "often great", go-fast kids normally require heavier oils like sandalwood or vetiver, she says.
Longer term strategies to even out energy levels and improve overall health involve developing positive eating habits. "I had one woman come into my clinic and say, 'My little girl will only eat sausage rolls.' It's really simple: stop buying them." Once you leave foods like meat pies and sweet treats out of the fridge, kids eventually get hungry and eat something else, says Jefferies. "I know one little girl who thinks it's normal for kids to eat broccoli dipped in hummus for morning tea. Her first five years have been spent building a strong foundation of nutrition."
Keep lunches fun and inviting, she advises. "Rather than tomato sandwiches which you know are going to go soggy, give them half a dozen cherry tomatoes and cheese cubes." Also try opting for compartmentalised lunch boxes to pique kids' interest. "Kids like interactive things. Let them put foods together so they don't get bored." And instead of going for white bread sandwiches, choose wholemeal tortilla wraps or buns.
Ideas for calm kids
- Keep a stash of car games for long trips: when kids get bored, they get wound up
- Use essential oils for long car trips, such as vetiver with a drop of peppermint, so they're mentally stimulated but not manic
- Create a 'hat of ideas'. Write activity suggestions on pieces of paper, scrunch them up, throw them in the hat and let kids take it in turns to draw an idea out each day of the holidays
- Prepare snacks such as smoothies with ground up nuts and seeds, sultanas and fruit. Remember: everything in moderation
If you think your child might have a copper and zinc or magnesium and calcium imbalance, see a naturopath for tailored advice
- Seeds and nuts (especially brazil nuts) pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- Copper rich foods
- Chocolate and grapes
Tips for lunch box snacks
- Low-fat yoghurt tubs with loose sultanas and nuts for them to add
- Cute vegetables like cherry tomatoes and sweet capsicum slices
- 100% fruit juice
- Water stored in a water bottle of their choosing
- Low fat cheese cubes