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Healthy Habits for Back to School

Back to the books: Start the school year off on the right foot
Healthy Habits for Back to School: Main Image
Studies show that children who regularly eat breakfast score better on standardised tests

Crisp new clothes, backpacks bursting with school supplies, and fresh haircuts. Children are headed back to school; it’s as sure a sign that autumn is in the air as the leaves turning colour. Autumn also means more demanding schedules for all children—kindergarteners and high school students alike. Instill healthy routines in September to help keep your child robust throughout the school year.

Keep moving

The shift from outdoors to the classroom can mean a big drop in physical activity. Redirect children who head straight for the computer or television once the closing bell rings. Sign your child up for organised sports teams such as football or swimming, or after-school activities such as martial arts, gymnastics, dance, or yoga. Make exercise a family affair as well. Walk to your errands and to the park, walk a local trail, take a group bike ride, or work together in the garden.

Salute the sandman

In addition to its negative effects on overall health, lack of sleep has been found to be a major factor in poor school performance and behavioural problems. Establish a consistent sleep routine for the school year with set bedtimes. Younger children may need to adjust to going to bed earlier, so incrementally move bedtime back by 10 to 15 minutes over the course of the first week of school.

Make that morning meal compulsory

It's widely held that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Studies show that children who regularly eat breakfast score better on standardised tests, experience fewer behavioural problems, and are less hyperactive than children who miss breakfast. Serve children a healthy morning meal of whole-grain cereals, bagels, toast, or pancakes with fruit, cheese, and nut butters. If time is short, grab a muesli or energy bar on your way out of the door.

Lighten the load

Books, exercise books, calendars, and lunchboxes weigh down your child’s bulging backpack. This burgeoning weight can cause some undue harm to your child’s still-growing body. To minimise the effects, look for a pack with wide padded shoulder straps and a padded back that sits squarely on your child’s back. Make sure your child wears both straps: wearing the pack slung over one shoulder creates misalignment that causes muscle strain. Pack light and place the heaviest objects in the middle of the pack. Rolling backpacks are an option for children who walk to school or to the bus; however, these can be awkward if your child has a lot of steps to manage.

Now it’s time to hit the books.

Kathleen Finn is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in the natural health industry. She tries to stay active in the autumn along with her daughter.