Some parents may have mixed feelings about the school year starting again. I, like most parents, love spending time outdoors with my child during the summer, but it can also be overwhelming to get them adjusted to going back to school.
Here are 6 healthy tips for kids from Patricia Tu, MD, family medicine provider at Northern Nevada Medical Group, to help both you and your child get ready for the new school year.
Most people have heard that eight hours of sleep is needed for a healthy adult’s sleep pattern, but children need more for healthy development. The hours of sleep kids need vary with each age group and individual, but a general guideline that includes nap time is:
Four to 12 months old: 12 to 16 hours
One to two years old: 11 to 14 hours
Three to five years old: 10 to 13 hours
Six to twelve years old: Nine to 12 hours
13 to 18 years old: Eight to 10 hours
Sleep deprivation in children can cause health and behavioral issues, including depression, obesity, concentration issues, and immune system issues. By optimizing sleep, children will be ready for peak performance at school!
Eat the Rainbow
While dietary needs are specific to each person, some general daily guidelines you can use to help your child maintain a healthy diet are:
Three to five servings of vegetables
Two to four servings of fruits
Six to 11 servings of carbohydrates
Two to three servings of protein
Two to three servings of dairy
Maintaining healthy eating habits can help to optimize a child’s immune system, increase energy levels and decrease the risk of chronic issues, including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Some easy-to-prepare snacks for your child’s school day can include cut fruit, nuts, including almonds and pistachios, and carrots and celery. If packing nuts, be aware that other school children may have a nut allergy. My daughter loves to snack on oranges, nectarines, and tomatoes!
Physical activity is an important part of maintaining your child’s health and most schools do not offer PE but may have a recess break for outdoor time. To ensure your kiddo gets enough movement, encourage your child to play outside by planning family activities or promoting family playtime.
Find an activity that your child enjoys and involve others, so your child sees exercise as a fun and integral part of their day.
Stay on top of your child’s health
Having an open dialogue with your child’s provider can allow your child to receive the best care possible while creating a relationship that allows everyone to feel comfortable with each other.
Some things you could discuss with your child’s provider to better understand their health status are:
Where does my child land on the growth chart?
Is my child meeting developmental milestones?
Is my child up to date on their immunizations?
If your child is active in school sports, it is essential for them to receive a sports physical prior to starting the season. Sports physical exams are complete physical exams performed by providers to help assess whether a child is safe to perform a particular sport. These exams generally entail a review of past medical history, vision/hearing tests, and an evaluation of the heart, lungs, gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal system.
It is important for your child to receive a sports physical as it is an opportunity to flag health concerns that may make participating in a sport dangerous.
Caring for your child’s health is a team effort when they are in school. When a child has health concerns, it is important that your child’s school medical provider is aware of them.
Providing your child’s school’s medical provider with a cheat sheet of treatment options typical for your child can be helpful for the medical provider to discuss and reference later.
Good hygiene is a good idea
Basic hygiene practices are not only important in keeping your child safe but also in keeping everyone in contact with your child safe as well. Basic hygiene practices include:
Washing hands prior to eating and after using the bathroom
Sneezing into your shirt or elbow
Avoid sharing drinks and food
Manage expectations and give your kiddo some love
Starting school can be stressful for some kids and as a parent, it can be hard to notice your child’s feelings as they start a new grade. Check-in with your child to see how they are feeling and let them know you are there to love and support them as they reach a new milestone.
Positioning yourself as an outlet for your child to share feedback gives them confidence and builds trust in your relationship. If you feel your child needs additional support during school hours, I suggest you connect with your child’s school counselor to help build your child’s support system when parents are not around.
A new school year can be scary for parents and children alike, but you are all in this together.
Along with these healthy tips for kids, make sure to take the time to check in with each other and find fun ways to keep both yourself and your child healthy and happy.
Northern Nevada Health System is a regional network of care that has elevated and improved access to healthcare for 40 years. The System operates two acute care hospitals located in Sparks and Reno, 24/7 freestanding emergency departments, a Medical Group which offers family and internal medicine, urgent care and specialty care, and Quail Surgical and Pain Management. NNHS is committed to maintaining and improving the well-being of the community and is known for top-rated patient satisfaction, in addition to providing quality care and a safe environment for patients to heal. To learn more, visit northernnevadahealth.com.