In those busy weeks before the first day of school, many parents sandwich a quick visit to the doctor for their child between clothes-shopping trips and last-minute runs for school supplies. However, there's more to getting your child healthy and ready for school than just filling out medical forms and scheduling booster shots! See these tips for a healthy start to the school year!
- Make sure your child has a back to school well check-up, vision exam, hearing exam, and dental cleaning before he or she heads back to school. Screenings can be done during your back to school checkup.
- If it's your child's first year, check with your pediatrician about your state vaccination requirements.
- Don't forget to schedule that flu shot too!
- Make sure you have all necessary medications filled and ready.
- If your child has a severe allergy or a chronic illness like asthma or diabetes, be sure to have enough medication on hand – for school and at home.
- Be sure to submit any necessary health forms – to play a sport or carry medicine, for example.
- A lot of kids spend the summer eating differently and on a varied schedule with fewer rules and more treats. Now it’s time to make those brown bags healthy and eat on a consistent schedule!
- Before the new school year starts, get your child back into the habit of eating three regular meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. As much as possible, try sit down for meals together to help the child reset the routine.
- Remember breakfast! Children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy.
- Find out about lunch options and meal schedules. Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and/or have them posted on the school's website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
- Look into what is offered in school vending machines. Vending machines should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice. Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child's risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options to send in your child's lunch.
- Make sure you pack a healthy lunch representing a variety of food groups and pack appropriate sized single serving portions.
- Discuss Lunch Rules. It's a good idea to lay down some nutrition rules before your child heads into the lunchroom. Otherwise, they may end up trading parts of a healthy lunch for a short stack of Twinkies. Ask frequently what your child is eating at school!
- Activity is usually easier during the school-free months of playing outside and getting to run and jump through the backyard and neighborhood all summer.
- School can be rough transition once your child spends a lot of time at the desk. Recess and gym help some, but they may not be enough and can consist of a lot of time standing around. Kids need 20 to 30 minutes of regular, nonstop exercise a day. Plan weekly bike rides and nature walks, and your whole family will benefit.
- By far, the most important school health issue for most kids is getting enough sleep --about 10 to 11 hours a night for elementary school-age children. That sounds simple, but the trouble is, it's not always easy to make your child's sleep patterns mesh with his new school schedule. Sleep is necessary for optimal functioning the next day and for good immune functioning, health, learning, memory, mood regulation, and even sports performance.
- Start gradually shifting their schedules a few weeks before school starts.
- Keep a consistent bedtime and rise time and make sure they are getting the sleep they need.
- Remove all devices from the bedroom to reduce screen time and unnecessary interruptions from sleep.
- The first day of school brings new friends, new activities AND a bunch of new germs! Remind your child about good hand-washing habits, especially that they need to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom and before they eat.
- Send your child to school with a packet of antibacterial wipes. They're not as effective as soap and water, but they may have more appeal for young children.
- When a child starts school, it's often the first time they are out from under your watchful eye for any length of time. So it's important to review basic safety rules, no matter how your child travels and from school.
- Seat belts should be a given, but remember to check out other drivers' safety standards well ahead of time. For safe bus trips, tell your child to stay seated quietly while the bus is in motion.
- Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Pack light.
- Have your child pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight. Always use both shoulder straps.
- If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack.
- Review the route together ahead of time to check out possible hazards, such as busy streets.
- Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school. In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a "walking school bus," in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
- Be realistic about your child's pedestrian skills. Younger children are more impulsive and less cautious around traffic, so carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision. If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely.
- Don't let a young child walk to school alone if under age 10, and don't expect a slightly older brother or sister to provide adequate safety supervision. Lay down safety rules for talking to strangers too.
- Remind your child to always wear a bicycle helmet no matter how short or long the ride and to ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic.
- Refresh their memory on using appropriate hand signals, and obeying traffic lights and stop signs.
- Remember that most crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school.
- Require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations, texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction.
Learn Well: Have Good Homework and Study Habits!
- Create a home environment that is conducive to doing homework. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
- Schedule a regular time for homework so the child gets into the routine. child gets into the routine.
- Make sure that homework time is free from distractions like TV or other electronic devices.
After summer months of staying up late, zoning out in front of the TV or video screen, running wild outside, and eating snacks throughout the day, kids are in for a big adjustment as they head back to school. Most children need help transitioning back into a routine with deadlines for a successful start to the school year. Give your child the best possible launch with these healthy back to school tips!