Children will perform better at school when they are rested, active and eating a healthy diet. Here are a few late summer lifestyle changes that may prepare your children for a safe and productive school year:
• Keep your children active. Experts recommend about 60 minutes of vigorous to moderate intensity activity a day for a growing child. This is an easier goal during the summer season when there is abundance of free time.
Try to keep your children moving with organized activities or even a neighborhood stroll. If you can, stay active with your child to promote your own well being.
• Schedule a physical exam for your child. Schedule an appointment with your child’s physician prior to the beginning of the school year. This can ensure that your child is up to date on his/her vaccines.
If your child is an athlete, you can also set up a sports physical so your child can join their team and get the exercise he or she needs. Finally, if your child is on medication, talk to your doctor about a plan to administer medicine during the school day if needed.
• Make sure your child eats breakfast. Students who eat a healthy breakfast perform better in the classroom. It is important that every child eats three nutritious meals a day and, most importantly, does not skip breakfast. A hungry child may lack the necessary concentration for his or her school work.
• Check the school lunch menu to avoid allergies and unhealthy decisions. If your children have allergies, make sure to check the school’s lunch menu to avoid triggering a reaction.
Take the time to make sure your child’s teachers, the school’s administration and the school nurse are made aware of any allergies. Check the school lunch menu. If it does not meet your family’s nutritional needs, be sure to pack your child’s lunch.
• Keep to a consistent sleep schedule. During the summer, children tend to fall asleep and wake up at later times. As the summer comes to a close, gradually alter bed times until your child is used to his or her school year sleep schedule.
• Put away mobile or tablet devices before bed. Smartphones and tablets emit “blue light,” which gives our body a false signal that it is morning. This can make it difficult to fall asleep.
• Make sure your child wears their backpack properly. Make sure your child uses both straps on their backpack. Using just one strap of a backpack can put stress on the body. This could lead to lower back pain or poor posture.
• Monitor the weight of your child’s backpack. Make sure your child is not carrying too much in his or her backpack. If you think your child is carrying too many books home, talk to your child’s teachers on ways to reduce the load.
Dr. Joseph J. Abularrage is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens