Back-to-School: Give Kids a Healthy Start
It’s that time of the year again! The hot, lazy days of summer are coming to an end, and the days of backpacks, homework, and extracurricular activities have arrived. Starting a new academic year is exciting for students, parents, and teachers, but it can also bring some back-to-school jitters. We want students to have the most successful year possible, which means paying attention to their nutrition and physical activity in order to support better learning at school.
Reboot Their Sleep Schedule
After a summer of late nights and laid-back mornings, it’s likely that your child could use some help adjusting to the earlier bedtimes and wake-up calls. Not only will this lead to fewer “I don’t want to get out of bed!” fights, but it will help your child ease into his or her school-time sleep schedule and maintain healthy sleep habits throughout the year.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) provides helpful guidelines regarding just how much sleep children need depending on their age. Luckily, naps can help contribute to your child’s recommended sleep hours. Children who get enough sleep benefit from improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health.
Help steer your youngsters toward a school-time sleep schedule with these three tips:
- Gradually Adjust Bedtime
The start of school can result in tired children. The sudden change in sleep schedules may make it difficult for them to fall asleep or wake up. Gradually move your child’s bedtime to the desired hour (about 10 minutes earlier each day) in order to help your child’s sleep cycle adjust to the new schedule.
- Take Tech Out of the Bedroom
Every night, put away all electronics at least an hour before your child’s bedtime. As a general guideline, try keeping electronics out of the bedroom since they can lead to poor sleep. The blue light that many electronic devices have can cause children to be restless, which is not what you want at 8:30 pm!
- Create a Nighttime Routine
If your child doesn’t already have a set bedtime routine, now’s the time to create one, especially if your child is younger. Bathing or reading a book are perfect calming activities in preparation for sleeping. Going through the same series of steps each night helps with consistency and will provide a strong signal that it’s time for your child to settle in and fall asleep.
Keep On Moving
The return of school means more time sitting indoors. Don’t forget to integrate physical activity into your student’s daily schedule. The Center of Disease and Control Prevention Children states adolescents should complete 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day. This may seem like a lot, but there are plenty of activities your child can participate in that are age-appropriate, enjoyable, and offer variety.
Afterschool programs are a way for kids to form new friendships, develop teamwork skills, and stay active. Look into programs that may be offered at your child’s school. Your local community center may have activities that could help your child explore a new hobby or discover a new passion. Is he or she interested in music, theater, or soccer? Curious about, robots, rock climbing, or dancing?
The Texas Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE) program is one of the largest statewide afterschool programs in Texas and offers free afterschool programming across the state. Additionally, the YMCA Y After School Program offers at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily as well as educational enrichment opportunities at an affordable cost.
If your child goes to school in the Austin or Del Valle Independent School District, we offer the Teach Healthier After School program to schools that are eligible through ACE/21st Century grant or other funding, at no cost to the families. Instructors of the Teach Healthier After School program guide students through active lessons, such as relay races or sports, complete with a nutrition lesson that complements that day’s physical activity. Request the Teach Healthier After School programming at your child’s school!
Meal Prep like a Pro
No more leisurely breakfasts and make-your-own lunches—when 7:00 am on a school day rolls around, it’s a quick bite at the table and then out the door. And that means getting organized.
Stock up on healthy breakfast items, from whole grain toast and peanut butter to yogurt and berry parfaits, so your kids can head out the door with a full stomach.
When it comes to lunches, prepping the night before is your best bet to make sure your kids will carry a healthy lunch and to avoid a hectic morning. Promote a healthy lifestyle by encouraging your kids to help with packing their lunches or by trying a new recipe together using nutritious ingredients.
Try these four balanced, fast, and nutritious lunch ideas for the next time you are stumped on what to pack for your student’s lunch. Another fun resource is the Power Your Lunchbox Pledge, where parents around the nation pledge to pack a healthier lunchbox for their kids and share ideas and recipes to help start the school year off right.
Let’s embrace this school year and make it the best, by having fun and staying healthy. Ask yourself how you want the school year to go; then ask yourself how you can help to make it happen!