Tips for a Healthy, Happy School Year

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 school.

Sleep

  • 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.

Nutrition

  • 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 might be.
  • 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 devour it.
  • 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 their hunger.
  • 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.

Personal care

  • Brush teeth at least twice a day—before school and before bed.
  • Encourage daily exercise.

Infection control

  • 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, clothing, etc.
  • 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.

Have a healthy and fun school year!

©1996-2013, Johns Hopkins University. All rights reserved. Disclosure: The information provided here is compiled by The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with editorial supervision by one or more of the members of the faculty of the School of Medicine pursuant to a license agreement with Yahoo! Inc. under which the School of Medicine and its faculty editors receive licensing fees and payment for services rendered within the scope of the License Agreement. Johns Hopkins subscribes to the HONcode principles of the Health on the Net Foundation.

LEAVE YOUR COMMENT

Follow Yahoo Health on and become a fan on

Follow @YahooHealth on