Back to school tips
We've got five ideas to help your child have a healthy and safe year.
Wed, Jul 21 2010 at 5:16 PM
Looking for a few back to school tips? We here at the Mother Nature Network have got you covered with lots of great ideas for how to make it a smooth transition from the carefree days of summer to the start of the school year.
Contrary to popular belief, buying new clothes and school supplies is not all it takes to get your child ready to go back to school.
Making sure that your kid is ready for school means setting a standard for both mental and physical health.
There are certain back-to-school situations that are inevitable: your child might sit next to the class bully. He might lose a textbook on the first day, or even be one to spread chicken pox to the whole fourth grade.
These things happen.
However, by sticking to the following five tips, your child can be on his way to a healthy and safe year — cuts and scrapes not included.
1. Plan at least 10 healthy lunches with your child ... ones that she will actually eat.
Sit down with your kids and have them tell you what they like to eat for lunch. Let them suggest anything, regardless of how healthy it is.
Once you get an idea of what they want, look for ways to tweak it into a healthy alternative.
For example, if your child likes deli sandwiches, try buying a rotisserie chicken and slicing it very thinly, instead of giving your child highly processed, salty deli meat.
Small changes, like buying all-natural peanut butter, baked potato chips, and whole-grain breads can make all the difference in your child’s diet.
If they are not explicitly told that they are being fed the healthier version of a food, kids often like them as much as the processed alternatives.
If they don’t like it, experiment with different foods until you find something that satisfies both your children’s tastes and their health.
2. Carry a hard plastic water bottle.
Although research has recently refuted the idea that every person needs 64 ounces of water a day, carrying a water bottle ensures that your kid stays constantly hydrated. As a plus, it keeps them away from sugary juices and sodas.
Sporting goods companies like Nalgene makes BPA-free, brightly colored, and essentially indestructible water bottles that are convenient and useful.
By making the water bottle part of your child’s daily school gear, you are saving money, keeping your child away from unhealthy alternatives and saving hundreds of pounds of disposable water bottle waste a year.
3. Buy the right backpack.
As kids get older, they start needing more textbooks, pens, pencils and other supplies that go in their backpacks.
Some even start bringing laptops with them to class as early as middle school.
While it is important to be well prepared, the weight and placement of backpacks can be extremely dangerous.
Without knowing it, your child may be carrying 10, 15, even 20 pounds of weight on his shoulders and backs.
More than 7,000 emergency room visits in 2001 were related to backpacks and book bags, and about half of those injuries occurred in children 5 to 14 years old.
In addition, heavy and misplaced backpacks often lead to back, neck and shoulder injuries.
If your child does not mind using a rolling backpack, this is probably the safest way to go.
If he does not like the hassle of stairs and hills with a rolling bag, or if he just prefers the traditional backpack, read this article on Healthychildren.org to find the right fit for your kid.
4. Make bedtime "routine" start early.
When people think of a bedtime routine, they assume it only means the basics: tooth-brushing, showering, reading a story.
With a more extensive routine that includes calming activities, your child will be much more relaxed and ready to fall asleep by bedtime.
Try letting them only watch TV and do homework until an hour or two before bed.
Once that time comes, encourage relaxing activities, such as reading, listening to music, or even stretching.
While this can be difficult to enforce, make pre-bedtime rituals pleasant.
Turn on low lighting, make a no-yelling rule (for both you and your child) and have a special drink, like cocoa or tea, to maintain a calm atmosphere.
5. Get them involved in after-school activities.
Not all kids are baseball stars. Your child will not necessarily be the next Picasso if he takes art classes, or the next Michael Phelps if he gets swimming lessons.
Thankfully, they don’t have to be in order to gain benefits from after-school activities.
While school itself can be both educational and social, finding a program that caters directly to your child’s interests bolsters their self-confidence, creates good social bonds, and above all keeps them out of trouble.
According to one study, children who do not spend any time in after-school activities are 49 percent more likely to have used drugs and 37 percent more likely to become a teen parent.
While after-school programs are often expensive, many cities offer free programs. Here’s a list of free community programs for kids in New York City.
If your city does not offer an affordable program that’s right for your child, try getting a small group in the community together to go with the children on after-school outings.
Switch off days, so that each parent has a chance to plan a fun activity for the kids.
Got more ideas for back to school tips? Leave them in the comments below.
MNN homepage photo: RichVintage/iStockphoto
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