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Crisp new clothes, backpacks bursting with school supplies, and fresh haircuts. Kids are headed back to school; it’s as sure a sign that fall is in the air as the leaves turning color. Autumn also means more demanding schedules for all kids—kindergarteners and high school students alike. Instill healthy routines in September to help keep your child robust throughout the school year.
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 organized sports teams such as soccer 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, hike a local trail, take a group bike ride, or work together in the garden.
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 behavioral 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.
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 standardized tests, experience fewer behavioral problems, and are less hyperactive than children who miss breakfast. Serve kids a healthy morning meal of whole-grain cereals, bagels, toast, or pancakes with fruit, cheese, and nut butters. In a time crunch, grab a granola or energy bar on your way out the door.
Books, notebooks, 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 minimize 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 kids 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.