Seven tips for a healthy school year

Sunday, January 13, 2013
Seven tips for a healthy school year
For primary-age children this should be in the afternoon, before they get overtired. Encourage older children to begin homework as early as possible too – otherwise they tend to put it off until late at night and then miss out on sleep.

Prepare your children now for a happy, pain-free year ahead.

When children go back to school, it is not only important to make the transition as easy as possible, but to also prepare for the little things that may affect the year ahead. Follow these seven simple steps to a stress-free school year ahead.

Book in health checks

See a dentist, make sure immunisations are up-to-date and have their eyes tested. It’s estimated that 40 per cent of kids with learning disabilities have a vision problem – one that can often be corrected. Signs include excessive blinking or eye rubbing, red or watering eyes, squinting, headaches and clumsiness. Keep the school informed of any health conditions and the appropriate treatment.

Keep nasties at bay

Schools are a breeding ground for germs and infections. Impetigo (or “school sores”) can be rife in warmer months and is highly contagious. If your child has recurrent infections, see a GP for antibiotics. Head lice are very common and can be treated with over-the-counter products.

Minimise nasties by warning kids not to share hats and drink bottles, and to practise proper hygiene by washing their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds after going to the toilet and before eating. Remind them to always cover their mouth with a tissue when they cough.

Establish a plan for homework

A consistent homework routine helps avoid a lot of stress. Make sure your child has a quiet place with a comfortable chair, good lighting and away from distractions such as TV and phones. Set a regular time, and stick to it.

For primary-age children this should be in the afternoon, before they get overtired. Encourage older children to begin homework as early as possible too – otherwise they tend to put it off until late at night and then miss out on sleep.

Don't overload them

Footy on Monday, swimming on Tuesday, athletics on Wednesday… experts warn that too many after-school activities are leaving children – not to mention their parents – stressed and tired. A recent survey found 47 per cent of Aussie parents experience “family fatigue” from running their kids around.

“Generally, children should have one or two after-school activities,” says clinical psychologist Jo Lamble. “They may seem really keen to take on more, but they will be sacrificing sleep, study, rest and family time if they’re doing three to four.” Signs your child may be stressed include difficulty sleeping, headaches and tearfulness.

Send them off with a healthy breakfast

After weeks of leisurely, pyjama-clad breakfasts, getting back into a school-morning routine can be quite a shock. To ensure the kids have time for a healthy breakfast, lay uniforms out, make school lunches and put them in the fridge, and put breakfast things out on the kitchen bench before you go to bed. Then make sure they’re are up in time so they don’t have to rush the most important meal of the day.

Watch the lunchbox

Nine out of 10 items packed inside school lunchboxes were kept at temperatures considered unsafe, found a US study published recently in Pediatrics journal. To avoid the risk, place an ice block or frozen drink bottle next to the food, or pack lunches that don’t need to be kept cold, such as sandwiches with spread, uncut fruit and vegetables, UHT dairy products or tinned fish. BPA (bisphenol-A) – a chemical used to make some plastics and resin – has been linked to an increased risk of some cancers, so look for a BPA-free lunchbox and drink bottle.

Dont scrimp on shoes and bags

When it comes to shoes and bags, it pays to splash out on quality. A US study found that 50 per cent of school kids are wearing ill-fitting shoes. Have shoes fitted by a specialist store (preferably at the end of the day), and choose shoes with laces, Velcro or buckles. As a rule, a school bag should not weigh more than 10 per cent of a child’s body weight. See bags approved by the Australian Physiotherapy Association at www.physiopak.com.


Related video: As the kids head back to school it can be a challenge packing a yummy but healthy lunch. Nutritionist Kristin Beck tells us some fresh lunchbox ideas.

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