Summer is over and it’s time to get your children ready to go back to school! Here are some tips on making the most of what can be a stressful time, for both you and your children.
Sleep: The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends children in grade school receive 9-12 hours of sleep, and teens receive 8-10 hours of sleep a night. You can set your children up for success by adjusting their sleep schedule 1 to 2 weeks before school starts. Most children go to bed and wake up later during the summer, so the sooner this schedule can be adjusted to earlier wake-ups and bedtimes, the easier the transition will be for both you and your children.
Routines: Not only is initiating an evening and morning routine the week before school starts important, but so is setting up the schedule for getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, doing homework, having downtime, eating dinner, doing chores, etc. Children do best when they know the schedule and their responsibilities within it. It is also important to assist children by providing spaces for homework and a daily, weekly, or monthly calendar to help children see their schedules in a visual format.
- For more information on routines and children, refer to Evans, G., “Time Management for Kids” http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HE/HE79500.pdf
Nutrition: The importance of breakfast cannot be understated, so much so that many schools offer it for free to all students. Providing breakfast allows children to focus on their schooling, not their empty stomach. It’s not only important to provide a meal before school in the morning, but also to include healthy breakfast options. Including healthy options is important for all meals and snacks throughout the day as well. The more we teach children about healthy eating habits and making choices for themselves, the better opportunity they will have to maintain those habits in adulthood.
- For more information on packing healthy lunches, refer to Bobroff, L. “Tips for Nutritious School Lunches.” http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FM/FM46900.pdf
Extracurricular activities: Children begin to develop their interests as they get older. Providing opportunities for them to explore, master, and develop skills outside of school in an area of their interest will help them grow. It is a bonus if these extracurricular activities incorporate physical activity to help children receive the 60 minutes a day of recommended exercise. These activities will also decrease the amount of potential screen time children may encounter.
Downtime: Planning activities is important, but so is NOT planning activities. Quiet time, including lights-out time, naptime, mindfulness, yoga, coloring, board games, puzzles, morning/evening stretch, listening to relaxing music, and quiet movie time are all great ways to encourage downtime for children, especially if they are incorporated into the daily schedule. Oftentimes children don’t have the ability to express their emotions as clearly as adults can. By providing opportunities for children to unwind, relax, and rest, they will be more apt to stay recharged and calm throughout the day. Rest time isn’t just for children; adults appreciate the time to gather their thoughts also.
Keep it Clean: Going back to school can also lead to increasing the amount of germs you and your children are exposed to. Get children used to handwashing and help them understand the importance of doing so. While hand sanitizer is great for being on the go, nothing compares to a proper handwashing.
- For more information on proper handwashing, refer to Simmone, A., “Hand Hygiene and Hand Sanitizers.”
For more information on how to help children succeed when going back to school, refer to McCarthy, C., “4 back to school tips to get your child off to a great start.”
Vanessa Spero, IFAS Extension University of Florida