By Holly Meyer, Grace Cottage Family Health RN
The lazy days of summer are behind us, and it’s back-to-school time.
After a long summer break, setting our kids up for a successful school day can be quite a production. Just like any production, it is important to set the stage in order to achieve a great performance. I think we can all agree that a great school day starts with a great night before. Here are a few tips to help your child to be a class act at school.
Encourage physical activity. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), children who exercise regularly have better attention spans and less behavioral problems. Go outside with your kids in the afternoon before dinner. Go for a hike, take a bike ride, or play tag. Just 30 minutes a day of physical activity on school days, or 150 minutes per week, is all it takes!
Eat dinner together as a family at the dinner table. Turn off the TV and other electronics and just talk. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), face-to-face social interaction is essential to learning and should not be replaced with social media.
Establish good homework and study habits. Set a time and place for homework each night. AAP says a child should have a designated, quiet space for homework. Set up a desk in a quiet corner of the living room or your child’s bedroom. It is important that there be few or no distractions. Also, make sure your child has the necessary tools at his/her disposal (pens, pencils, paper, calculator, etc.). Be available during homework time to help your child or answer questions.
Limit electronic use and shut it down well before bedtime. According to the American Psychological Association, screen time at night can negatively impact sleep. The blue light emitted by the screen decreases melatonin secretion. Melatonin is an important hormone produced by the body that promotes sleep.
Each evening, organize for the next day. After homework time, help your child to organize his/her backpack. Make sure the completed homework gets into the pack so it can be turned in on time! Choose an outfit with your child and lay it out for easy access the next morning. If lunch needs to be prepared, do it the night before and store it in the fridge for the next morning.
Establish a regular bedtime. The AAP says children 5-to-12 years of age need 10-12 hours of sleep per night, and 13-to-18 year-olds should get 8 to 10 hours each night. Make sure your child’s sleep environment is dark and quiet. Bedtime rituals such as taking a shower, brushing teeth, reading a short story together, and tucking in to say goodnight can help your child to settle in for a good night’s rest.
Make time for a good breakfast. Wake-up time should be early enough to allow your child adequate time to be organized and also to eat a nutritious breakfast without feeling rushed. According to the AAP, kids should have a healthy breakfast each day. Kids who eat a good breakfast are able to focus better at school and they achieve more academically.
All of this sounds like a lot, but if done consistently each night, your child will get used to the routine and will soon be doing much of this stuff on his/her own, or with minimal guidance from you. Stick with it and help your child achieve star status this year at school!
Holly Meyer received her RN from Vermont Technical College. She joined the Grace Cottage Hospital nursing staff in 2012, and she has worked with Grace Cottage Family Health’s pediatrician, Dr. Elizabeth Linder, since 2016.