Well, here in Florida the temperature still feels like the
dog days of summer, but it’s technically fall and children all over have gone
back to school.
It’s easy to slip out of routines during the summer and going
back to school is an adjustment for us all. (Anyone else enjoy the break from
making lunches every day?) Here are some suggestions on how to get the year
started off to a healthy start and maximize your child’s chances for success in
Getting enough sleep is a huge factor in a
child’s ability to focus and learn well. General recommendations are for 10–12
hours of sleep for 3- to 6-year-olds; 10–11 hours for 7- to 12-year-olds; and 8–9
hours for 12- to 18-year-olds.
Make a real effort to get your children (and
yourself) back into a good bedtime routine with a regular bedtime.
Go unplugged for the hour before bed. Encourage
your child to read, draw, or do other quiet, non-electronic activities. Video
games and watching TV tend to stimulate kids’ brains, making it harder for them
to fall asleep.
For tweens and teens: Take the cell phones out
of the bedroom. They don’t need to be texting or to be waking up to texts
during the night.
Limit your child’s intake of caffeinated drinks—particularly
after 4 p.m.—as they may interfere with the ability to fall asleep.
Pack healthy lunches and snacks.
If your children buy lunch at school or pack
their own lunch, encourage healthy food choices and discuss what some of those
Limit junk food in the house. If it’s not there,
no one can eat it.
Keep healthy snacks around the house:
Include a protein source such as peanut butter,
hummus, yogurt, or milk.
Encourage them to try fruits and vegetables. It’s
more work for you, but keeping washed and cut-up fruit and vegetables readily
available increases the chances your children will eat them. My kids can walk
by a pineapple for days and never ask for it. As soon as I cut it up, they
Don’t let them skip breakfast. It doesn’t have
to be huge but kids (adults, too!) should eat something in the morning. And if
breakfast includes a protein (e.g., eggs, milk, or peanut butter) it will be
even more beneficial and last longer. Please skip the sugared cereals!
Make sure all eating is done in the kitchen and
not in front of electronic screens. If people are watching TV or playing a
game, they will be more likely to keep eating long after they have satisfied
Send water bottles with them to school so they can
hydrate themselves through the day. Many schools have gotten better about
allowing water bottles in the classrooms.
Brush teeth at least twice a day—before school
and before bed.
Encourage daily exercise.
Discuss and demonstrate healthy hand washing. Wash
hands before meals, even before school lunch. Packing hand sanitizer in the
lunch box can help.
Discourage the sharing of food, utensils,
This year’s flu vaccine is already available and
is recommended for all children older than 6 months of age.
Make sure your child’s physical exam and
immunizations are up to date.
Don’t send your child to school with a fever,
vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive cough and congestion. If they look like they don’t feel good, they
won’t get much learning done and will risk spreading the illness to others.