Seven tips for a healthy return to school

July 26, 2023 Providence Health Team


In this article:

  • While getting back into the routine of school is a busy time, it’s also a chance for a reset on health and wellness for your children.

  • The back-to-school season is a great time to help your child with strategies to stay healthy in the classroom and beyond.

  • Here, caregivers from Providence share a health and wellness to-do list to get your child to their first day of school at their best.

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.

Here are some back-to-school tips to support your child’s well-being.

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 them 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. That’s because, when children are dehydrated, they are at greater risk for heat-related illnesses. Unfortunately, many children don’t drink enough water. A study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that more than half of kids don’t get enough hydration.

When you are putting together your child’s lunchbox, be sure to include a reusable water bottle. Consider opting for 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 are only so many times your child will eat a turkey sandwich before they’ll get bored with it. Make a list of creative lunch options to plan out menus for the week that are filled with foods your child likes — and that are good for them nutritionally.

Consider packing a variety of foods like:

  • Crunchy and colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Low-fat cheese cubes and crackers
  • Pita pockets filled with vegetables and hummus
  • Trail mix with dried fruit, nuts and pretzels
  • Yogurt parfaits with fresh berries

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 know the signs of concussion, including headaches and memory problems, and work with a doctor to make sure your child is cleared for play if they’ve experienced a concussion.

6. Form a class wellness committee

Your child may have food allergies, or you just want to ensure that they don’t eat junk food at school. In either case, you’ll want to ask your child’s school 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 like bringing low-fat or low-sugar treats 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 off colds, sore throats and other infectious diseases is with good hygiene and hand-washing techniques. Consider sending them to school with hand sanitizer in case they’re in a pinch. Also helpful: ensuring your child eats a nutritious diet to build up the immune system.

The back-to-school season is also a great time to make sure your child is up to date on their immunizations. Make sure to also check in with your child’s pediatrician on any other recommended vaccines, including their flu shot or COVID-19 vaccine.

Find a doctor

Your provider can connect you to care and treatments that can improve your quality of life. If you are looking for a primary care provider, you can search for one who’s right for you in our provider directory.

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Related resources

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Get your child caught up on their wellness visits

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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