Back to School Health Tips
Back to school is a big change for kids and parents. After months of unlimited playtime, staying up late and snacking whenever they want, kids (and parents!) have to get back into the rhythm of the school year.
Here are some things you can do to keep your kids healthy when they go back-to-school
Get Enough Sleep
It’s hard enough switching your sleep schedule around when you’re an adult – and you’ve had practice! Insufficient sleep is associated with lower academic achievement in middle school and up, as well as higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness.
If possible, transition sleep schedules slowly. At least a week before school starts, shift your kids from their carefree summer sleep hours to bedtime schedules more in line with the school year. You can help your child with this transition by encouraging reading or playing quiet games, rather than playing video games or watching TV, before going to bed.
Schedule Annual Checkups
Weigh-ins, eye exams and shots – oh my!
Depending on your child’s school and grade level, they may have to go through a slew of examinations before the start of the school year:
- According to the CDC, every state requires certain vaccinations at different grade levels for children attending public school.
- Some states require a vision exam for students entering kindergarten.
- In many school districts, a physical is a requirement to participate in school sports.
More importantly, an annual physical exam will ensure your child is healthy before going back to class. Then, organize your child’s personal health records and emergency medical contact information so you can provide it to the school.
Pack Healthy Food
Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy.
Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, major improvements are being made across the country to transform school food to promote better nutrition and reduce obesity. You can help by providing healthy meal options and snacks for your kids on the days when they would rather bring lunch.
A healthy lunch should be:
- Colorful. A colorful mix of fruits and vegetables will keep them energized and ready to learn. Apples, berries, baby carrots and edamame are easy to pack — and fun to eat.
- Hydrating. Everyone needs to drink, but not all drinks are created equal. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids who drink one can of soda a day increase their obesity risk by 60%. Pack flavored water or 100% juice instead.
- Real. Whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet for kids. Pack whole grain, low-sodium whole grain snack bars or crackers in their lunch box.
Mind Their Backpacks
The weight of a lunch, school supplies, binders and textbooks — which typically weigh 3.5lbs each – can really add up fast. Did you know, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are more than 6,500 emergency room visits each year by children ages 5-18 related to heavy backpacks? Backpack loads are responsible for a significant amount of back pain in children, teens and college students.
According the American Academy of Pediatrics, a backpack should never weigh more than 10-20% of your child’s body weight. In addition, when choosing a backpack, you should look for some of the following features:
- Wide, padded shoulder straps
- Two shoulder straps
- Padded back
- Waist strap
And always use both straps when carrying your backpack. “Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints and can lead to severe back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems,” orthopedic surgeon and American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons spokesperson Daniel Green, MD, told The Huffington Post.
Which leads me to…
Helping with Homework
Childhood’s 4-letter word… with reason. A Stanford researcher found that students who spend too much time on homework experience more stress and physical health problems. But it has to get done, right? Make it easier for children to focus and complete homework efficiently by providing a space that is quiet and distraction free to promote study-time. You can help by:
- Setting aside a regular time for homework
- Establishing a “No TV/video games” rule during homework time
- If they have to use a computer (as many do) check in often to make sure they are staying on task
- Get them organized using checklists, timers and other tools
Also, don’t underestimate the power of a break, especially on those heavy homework nights (think – projects, reports, etc). That same Stanford study found that 90 minutes is the optimal amount of time to spend on homework, which makes it the perfect time to take a break!
More Healthy Habits
According to Mayo Clinic, the most effective way to avoid spreading or catching germs is to encourage hand washing.
You can’t control when you’ll need to sneeze, but you can control where you sneeze. Remind your children to always cough or sneeze into the crooks of their elbows or into their sleeves, not their hands.
Check for Head Lice
Feeling itchy just thinking about it? Stress the importance to your child of not sharing combs, hats, and clothes. They should bring their own pillow on sleepovers, too.
Get ready to have a great school year!
These simple tips will give you a head start on a healthy year. What are some things you do to get your family ready for back-to-school? Let us know in the comments!