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Smart Parenting

Practical advice about raising children


Keeping Kids Healthy During the School Year


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It’s that time of year again when parents are rejoicing and children are lamenting about the upcoming school year. Suddenly, we are carefully checking school supply lists, scheduling haircuts, and trying desperately to get back into a routine. As you plan and prepare, take a few minutes to consider the ways you can help keep your kids healthy and thriving as they head back to class this fall. To help you on this journey, here are ten tips to implement this school year.

Use proper hand washing and hygiene techniques

Germs are everywhere, especially in the close confines of classrooms, locker rooms, and buses. Make sure your kids know how to properly wash their hands. Encourage them to create a good lather and sing ”Happy Birthday” two times while rinsing. Also, encourage a child to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth, and to always cough into their elbows.

Get adequate amounts of sleep

The rigors of school, extracurriculars and homework mean kids can easily become sleep-deprived.  This can result in poor school performance, attention disorders, mood disruptions, and immune systems that are more susceptible to illness. Experts recommend children get at least 9 hours of sleep every night.

Rethink breakfast

When many of us were growing up, we started our mornings with a bowl of cereal. Unfortunately, these traditional morning staples are loaded with sugar, added fiber, and synthetic vitamins or minerals. Look outside of the cereal box for alternative meal ideas, including whole grains and proteins, to fuel a child’s body and satisfy their hunger until lunch. For starters, consider adding eggs or oatmeal back into your family’s daily morning routine.

Skip the soda and juice

A study in the journal Nutrition found fruit juice has a comparable fructose concentration to sodas. That’s a lot of extra sugar! Encourage children to drink milk or water instead, and save the sweet stuff for an occasional treat.

Arm your kids with techniques to manage stress

Whether it is balancing grades and activities, homework, or scoring the winning touchdown on Friday night, kids feel a lot of pressure from parents, teachers, coaches and peers. This is especially true as they enter high school and start looking toward college. Let them know that it is okay to make mistakes and teach them methods to overcome setbacks and disappointments.


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Avoid sharing water bottles or personal hygiene items

We always teach our children to share, but this is one surefire way to pass germs and illness around a classroom. Tell kids, “if you put it in your mouth, don’t share”. Advise older kids to avoid sharing deodorants or razors after gym or practice.

Reclaim family dinners

Experts have been telling us for years how important it is to sit down as a family unit and share a meal. Besides building solid relationships, family dinners are a great opportunity to ensure kids are getting at least one nutritious meal a day.

Look for fun ways to get out and exercise

Whether it’s biking, jump roping, playing Just Dance, or catching Pokemon, look for activities that are fun and encourage you to get in shape while participating. If the activities are appealing to our kids, exercising will seem less like a chore and more like a treat. Consider how celebrities like Kelly Osbourne, Catherine Zeta Jones, Jason Mraz,  Beyonce, and even First Lady Michelle Obama are enjoying the hula hoop fitness movement and having fun at the same time!

Look for eco-friendly and healthy materials for packing lunches and snacks

Instead of wrapping sandwiches and meal items in questionable one-time use only plastics, consider utilizing safe reusable alternatives. While we realistically can’t avoid plastics, look for recycling codes 1, 2, 4, and 5 on the bottom of products before purchasing. These are the safest to use. Also, avoid microwaving food in plastic containers if at all possible to avoid chemicals leeching into our foods.

Limit the amount of technology in the home

Technology does have a time and place in our homes, but many children are spending too much time in front of a screen. Set a time limits of 2 hours everyday so they can enjoy social media, television, and research homework on the computer and still have ample time to be active while enjoying activities away from devices.

What advice do you have for keeping your kids healthy this school year?