FEATURE —During the hot days of summer, the last thing we’re thinking about is the fact that school will be starting in just a few short weeks. However, now is the perfect time to start preparing for that school bell to ring. Along with shopping, haircuts and pictures, here are five back-to-school tips to help kids prepare for the classroom and give them a foundation of good health:
Get an annual physical
Now is a great time to touch base with your family doctor for an annual physical. As a general rule, most insurance providers cover the complete cost, including office co-pays, for an annual, well-child visit each year. These wellness visits are an important opportunity for parents, children and their physician to review not only a child’s physical health, but their overall development, emotional well being, preventive services and immunizations.
Pre-participation or sports physicals are often required for older children wishing to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities. While some schools or other groups may offer group or team physicals, I always encourage parents to take advantage of the free, annual wellness visit offered by their insurance provider to see their doctor. By doing so, all aspects of your child’s health and development that may otherwise be overlooked in a group or team physical setting can be evaluated.
Get enough sleep
With all the responsibilities and activities that come with the new school year, remember to schedule appropriate sleep time. In general, school-aged children should get at least 10 hours of sleep each night. Many parents are surprised to learn that the recommendation for teens is about the same, about nine to 10 hours a night.
The importance of sleep can often be overlooked in busy family life. However, lack of sleep can have a negative impact on a child’s learning, as well as negatively impact physical and emotional health. Having a set bedtime and wake-up time is one of the best ways to make sure that children are getting a good night’s rest.
Limit screen time
One way to make more time in your child’s day for all the important things they need to accomplish is to limit screen time or leisure time spent on activities such as TV, computers, tablet and other hand-held devices. Screen time for children and teens should be less than one to two hours per day.
Children under the age of two ideally should have no exposure to screen-based entertainment as this detracts from interactive play and learning and can negatively impact normal development. For those of us with older children and infants in the same household, turning off the glowing box can encourage greater interaction among siblings of different ages.
If your children are used to having more screen time than recommended, you can soften the transition by cutting back over several weeks on the amount of screen time allowed. By doing this, kids will usually self-select what screen-based entertainment is most important to them.
Make healthy food choices
As social beings, eating meals together as friends and family is important in many ways. Unfortunately, meal time often seems to be more of a recreational activity, something we do for enjoyment, rather than for providing our bodies with the fuel we need for development, activity and learning. Just like there are different fuels and fuel grades for your car, all foods are not created equally.
Our diets should focus on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fat-free dairy and lean meats such as chicken and fish. Whenever possible, meals should be cooked at home using ingredients that actually look like something you could find in nature. A good rule of thumb is that if food comes in a ready-to-eat box, bag or drive-through window it is probably not the healthiest option available.
Unfortunately many children and teens spend more time interacting with virtual reality or reality TV than they do with the real world outside. Participating in regular, leisure-time exercise activity is an important part of achieving and maintaining good physical and emotional health.
Engaging in at least 60 minutes of exercise daily is recommended for children of all ages. The list of health benefits to be gained from regular daily exercise is as long as the list of activities available so encourage your kids to go outside and have some fun. Better yet, get outside and join them!
Getting back into the school routine can be challenging for both kids and their parents, but implementing these five, simple tips can help make that transition a little easier and a lot healthier!
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Written by Jared Miner for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.
Miner has been practicing family medicine at the Intermountain River Road Family Medicine clinic since 2013. Dr. Miner graduated from Weber State University, the Ohio State University College of Medicine, and the Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology. He completed his residency training at the Utah Valley Family Medicine Residency in Provo, Utah, and is board-certified in Family Medicine.
In addition to being a medical doctor, his Ph.D. training in exercise physiology allows him to offer patients a unique approach to their health care needs by incorporating expert-level training in exercise and nutrition into their care. He is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Sports Medicine.
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