This giveaway is no longer accepting entries. Congrats to this week’s winner, Laura W. !
While in some states kids have already gone back to school, here in Wisconsin, most can soak up those last few days of freedom until after Labor Day.
But, after a few months of being on a more relaxed routine, how do you help kids get back on track before that first bell rings?
Get Back in a Sleep Routine
Enjoying the longer days may have translated into late bedtimes. Help make the first few days of school easier by starting to transition kids a few weeks before school actually starts. A few tips for a restful sleep include:
- Minimize or eliminate electronics in the bedroom, including TVs, cellphones, tablets and other electronic devices
- Get into a routine by going to bed and waking at the same time. For older kids and teens, avoiding naps can help make it easier to fall asleep at night.
- Limit caffeine. Even though teens may say it doesn’t affect them, it can interfere with their body’s ability to get a good night’s rest.
- Wind down at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Read a book, listen to music or even a warm bath can help.
- Exercise during the day. Getting enough exercise can help kids (and adults) fall asleep better and more deeply.
Start the day off right with a breakfast that includes protein and fiber. Think about the length of time the body goes without fuel – sometimes as much as 10 hours if the last meal was at dinnertime the evening before. If you skip breakfast, that can turn into 12 or more hours. That’s a long time for a body to go without sustenance and can lead to choosing foods that aren’t good for us just to get the quick fix. Having that fuel is also important to help kids stay focused on what’s going on in class. There are many simple, fast and healthy breakfast recipes available, including these from UW Health’s Pediatric Fitness Clinic: Healthy Breakfast Recipes for Kids
Set the Stage
There can be a lot to remember when school starts – locker combination, class schedule, homeroom and classroom numbers, even what time the bus comes. Write down the need-to-know information in a safe place. Once kids are confident in knowing the information, they won’t need to carry it, but it can help having it accessible in the first few days.
Managing the family’s schedule can be a challenge, particularly when there are lessons, practices, rehearsals, and assignments to keep track of. Throw in appointments, meetings and conferences and things can get even more confusing. Consider a wall calendar, or even a shared electronic calendar, to help keep track of everything and make sure everyone knows where they need to be.
Prepare the Night Before
Trying to remember everything in the rush to get out the door on time is next to impossible. Make sure everything is packed the night before, and even consider having your child select his or her outfit for the next day. It can help the morning go more smoothly and make sure no one is missing a lunch or an assignment that’s due.
A Few Words About Backpacks
While messenger bags, over the shoulder bags and even purses may be more fashionable, the good ol’ backpack is actually a healthier choice. When it’s worn properly the weight is supported by the strongest muscles of the body – the back and abdominal – and is distributed evenly across the body. Even so, backpacks that are too heavy, or worn just on one shoulder, can cause back pain.
Kids should carry no more than 10-15 percent of their body weight in their pack. For example, an 80-pound child shouldn’t carry more than 8-10 pounds. Surprisingly, kids often carry more than that, sometimes an entire locker’s worth of gear. But this can cause them to to develop shoulder, neck and back pain. Kids may also experience tingling, numbness and weakness in their arms and hands.
When choosing a pack, look for a lightweight pack that has two wide, padded shoulder straps. Multiple compartments can also help distribute the weight of the load more evenly, as can the waist belt. And, when loading the pack, remember to put the heavier items like textbooks closest to the center of the pack.
A little advance preparation can help ensure kids are able to focus on school (and their friends), and help make the first day and every day as stress-free as possible.
Prize: 1 – $10 Target gift card. No substitutions.
Rules: Giveaway closes on Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 11pm CST. Open to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois residents only. One entry per email address is permitted. The winner will be selected using random.org and announced on Monday, August 27, as an update to this post. Come back to Growing Up Healthy on Monday for the announcement of the winner and next week’s giveaway. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get new posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re posted.