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Tips for a Healthy, Successful School Year

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Healthy habits at home and school success go hand in hand.  Numerous studies have linked good academic performance with healthy habits, regular routines, and communication skills.  Setting the scene in early childhood and working together as a family team ensures a solid foundation for both good health and grades.  The American Academy of Pediatrics and offer the following tips for setting your child up for success this school year.
Create a Healthy Home Life for a Successful School Life 
Decide on a bedtime that will give your child plenty of rest.  
  • 3-6 Years Old: 10 - 12 hours per day
  • 7-12 Years Old: 10 - 11 hours per day
  • 12-18 Years Old: 8 - 9 hours per day
  • Provide a healthy breakfast every morning. Start the day with vegetable or fruit juice. Slice fruit on top of whole grain cereal or yogurt.  Cook up some eggs with fruit and whole grain toast.
  • Pack a healthy lunch.  Include fruits, veggies, whole grain bread and a good protein like chicken, turkey, or hummus.  Water or low-fat milk are good drinks.  Avoid soda and salty snacks like potato chips. 
  • Limit screen time and music listening to one to two hours (including screen time at school) per day.  
  • Encourage outdoor play and sports.  Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity (running around being kids) every day.  Be a good role model and play with your child.  Adults need play and exercise time, too! 
  • Wash hands and use hand sanitizer.  The best way to keep students healthy during the school year is to make sure they wash their hands before meals, after bathroom use, nose blowing, or playground use.  When a sink and soap are not available, hand sanitizer is a great option.
  • Sneeze and cough properly.  Teach your child to cough or sneeze into the crook of his or her elbow.   (Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then washing hands is best but not always possible.) 
  • Stick to a routine (as much as possible).  Most children thrive on structure and routine.  They like to know what to expect.  Set up a morning, afternoon, and evening schedule that includes when to play, when to eat, and when to do homework. 
  • Be organized.  Set up a single place in the home to put backpacks, jackets, shoes, lunchboxes, and school projects each day.  Everyone is stressed less when everything can be easily grabbed going out the door in the morning.
  • Set up a homework zone.  A designated homework space makes it easier and more fun for kiddos to complete their homework.  A desk or stretch of kitchen counter with a basket full of necessary supplies works beautifully.  Note:  Children should not do homework in front of the TV, as it is distracting.  
  • Read to your kiddo every day.  Reading is the single best indicator of academic success.  Reading well is necessary for every subject matter and comprehension.  Try to sit down and read with your child for at least 15-20 minutes per day.  This should be a fun time of reading together.  Go to the local library and let your child pick out books he or she likes. 
  • Learn and teach.  Most of life does not involve research papers but it does involve cooking, cleaning, buying, and selling.  Incorporate math, science, and reading into everyday life with your child.  If you are cooking, read the recipe together, measure the ingredients, and of course, sample the product! 
  • Talk often.  Give your little one a chance to talk.  Ask open-ended questions such as “What was the best part of your day?”  “What was the worst part of your day?”  “What was the grossest thing that happened today?”  By asking questions and listening, you will learn about your child’s likes, dislikes, anxieties, excitements, and disappointments.
  • Get involved.  Meet the teachers and stay in regular contact with them via phone or email.  Ask questions, offer encouragement, and listen to their comments.  
  • Eat dinner together.  Whenever possible, eat dinner together at the dinner table with all electronics put away (TV and smartphone).  Children of families who eat together are more likely to succeed in school.  It is also a great time to reconnect as a family and communicate about the day.  
Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville.  If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, she can be reached at or 585-335-4327.  

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