These simple steps can ensure a healthy back-to-school season for your child.
It may seem like just yesterday you stowed away the backpacks and left for summer vacation, but a new school year is around the corner. That means it's time for buying school supplies, making sure the kids haven't outgrown their closed-toe shoes, filling out forms and all the other tasks that come with going back to school. But don't forget the health and wellness items that should be on your to-do list.
1. Give a "green" gift to your child's teacher. Many teachers have wish lists for start-of-school-year classroom supplies. Find items that can help create a healthy, environmentally friendly classroom environment, such as nontoxic cleaning supplies to wipe down desks, a class set of reusable plates and utensils for parties, or paper made from recycled materials. And instead of an apple for the teacher, give her an indoor plant, which can help keep the air clean inside the classroom.
2. Get a reusable water bottle for your child's lunch box. With many campuses starting the school year during the heat of August and early September, it's crucial to prevent dehydration in kids who will be spending time outdoors during lunch, recess and P.E. In fact, a study from the American Journal of Public Health and the Harvard School of Public Health found one-quarter of kids ages 6 to 19 didn’t drink water at all during the day. So make sure that when you are assembling the equipment for your child's lunchbox that you include a water bottle. Avoid plastic water bottles and opt for a reusable one with attached spouts for easy sipping. Fill the bottle at night so there's one less thing to do in the morning to get the kids out the door.
3. Get proactive--and creative--with making lunches. There's only so many times your child will eat a turkey sandwich before she'll get bored with it. Compiling a list of creative lunch options allows you and your child to plan out menus for the week that are filled with foods your child likes--and that are good for her nutritionally, too. Consider some of these great ideas.
4. Buy a better backpack. Just as you have your child try on new school clothes to make sure they fit before you buy them, you should also have them try on their new backpack. A backpack that doesn't fit properly, especially when it's weighed down with books and lunch boxes, can cause back, neck and shoulder pain.
5. Practice "safety first" when it comes to school sports. Young athletes, especially in middle and high school, have many options when it comes to team sports. But some of those sports (fall football, anyone?) come with a risk for concussion. If your child participates in extracurricular sports, make sure you and your child know the signs of concussion--headaches and memory problems, for instance--and set the expectation that if there is a concussion your young player doesn't hit the field again until cleared by a doctor.
6. Form a class wellness committee. Your child may have food allergies, or you just want to ensure that he doesn't eat junk food at school. In either case, you'll want to ask the teacher about food guidelines for classroom celebrations, such as holiday parties or birthday festivities. If there aren't any in place, find a few like-minded parents, and you can plan simple strategies--savory instead of sweet treats, for instance--to keep class parties healthy but still fun.
7. Remind your child to wash their hands. With all those kids in one place, a classroom can be a hotbed of germs. The best way to ward them off is with good hand-washing techniques. Also helpful: ensuring your child eats a nutritious diet to build up the immune system.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.