August means back to school time. As you gear up to send your kids back to school for another year of learning and growing, here are a few tips to keep their minds and bodies healthy.
1. Clean Hands Mean Healthy Bodies—Back to school is a venerable time for children and teens as they are reintroduced to all sorts of germs and bugs. They can lurk anywhere from shared writing utensils to water fountains.
With your little ones, make sure they’re up-to-date on the best handwashing practices.
The minimum amount of time they should wash their hands is 20 seconds. Teach them to count to 20 while their hands are in the water or, teach them a song to sing that will last about 20 to 30 seconds while they wash their hands.
With older kids, remind them that germs are lurking around school and mention that they should wash hands before eating or touching their face, in addition to after they use the restroom.
Consider sending hand sanitizer, if allowed, with both your younger and older children.
2. Stock up on Healthy Breakfast Foods and Snacks—It’s tempting to stock the house with convenience items for breakfast and snack time. Microwave pizzas and packaged breakfast foods are easy, but often lack the nutrition needed to fuel your child’s day. Good nutrition is key to your child’s success. Foods not only affect how a child feels and how much energy he or she has but also his or her ability to focus.
For both breakfast and snack time, aim for snacks that are high in protein and fiber. Think Greek yogurt, apples with almond or peanut butter, veggies with hummus, oatmeal with peanut butter and fruit or English muffins topped with veggies and eggs. Whole grains like quinoa, farro and bulgur can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for quick serve snacks—just toss some veggies and herbs in. They can also double as lunches for you or the kids. Throw in a side of fruit or pita bread and you have a healthy, quick meal to power your day.
3. Focus on Sleep—Getting back into a routine can be difficult. Ease your kids back into a school time schedule by slowly moving them to early bedtimes the weeks before school starts. Try moving bedtimes back an hour a week until they’re at the right time. You can tackle this in smaller increments, moving bed time 8-10 minutes back each day.
During the school year make sure your children get the right amount of sleep. Children 3-5 should get 10-13 hours of sleep each night, children 6-13 should aim for 9 to 11 hours and those aged 14-17 should get 8 to 10.
4. Teach Good Stress Management Habits—Stress has been linked to all sorts of health problems, from heart disease to high blood pressure. Schoolwork, social interactions, activities and changes can lead to stress for your child. Teach your children to handle stress in a healthy way. Consider implementing family yoga time a few times a week, sign your child up for a sport, invest in some adult coloring books for your teens or find other ways to help your child deal with his or her stress.
5. Don’t Forget Water—Water fountains can be teeming with germs. Invest in a few good reusable water bottles for your children and help them fill up on the way out the door. Not only will this help keep them from drinking out of the fountain, it will mean they always have something to drink, and won’t have an excuse to load up on sugar-packed, calorie-rich juices and sodas.