Getting ready for school after a long summer vacation can be a tough adjustment for your kids. Irregular sleep schedules, binging on junk food and getting extra hours of screen time are fun during the summer, but can mean bad news in the classroom since studies show that active, healthy kids are more likely to get better grades. It’s also easier for your children to maintain a healthy lifestyle for years to come if they establish healthy habits now. To help your kids succeed in the classroom—and in life—get them ready for the school year with these healthy tips:
Get their sleep schedules back on track: A good night’s sleep keeps your kids alert and focused all day long. During the summer, kids usually stray from regular sleep schedules, staying up late and sleeping in all morning. It’s a good idea to start adjusting their sleep schedules two weeks before the first day, gradually pushing bedtime forward by 15 minutes each day. For kids ages 7-12, aim for them to get 10-11 hours of sleep a night, while older kids need 8-9 hours.
Pack healthy lunches: Nutrition expert Dr. Ann Kulze says to include these four items in a healthy lunch: a good source of protein (turkey breast, egg salad, tuna salad or nut butters), at least one piece of produce (baby carrots, celery sticks, berries or oranges), a calcium-rich food (low-fat cheese, yogurt or milk) and a fun food (dark chocolate, granola bars with no added sugar or a box of raisins or other dried fruit). A healthy, balanced meal will refuel your child for a successful afternoon. Find more nutrition tips from Dr. Ann.
Stay active after school: Spending hours at a desk in the classroom and at home doing homework means your kids will do a lot of sitting. Aim to keep them active for at least one hour every day after school with activities like soccer, swimming, gymnastics, dance or martial arts. The best way to encourage your kids to be active is to be a good role model. Make exercise a family activity with a kickball game after dinner or a bike ride around the neighborhood.
Talk to your pediatrician about the HPV vaccine: It’s a good idea to get your child’s yearly physical out of the way before school starts. While at the doctor’s office, ask your health care professional about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can help prevent at least six types of cancer caused by HPV. The vaccine is recommended for children ages 11-12 but girls can get a catch-up vaccine through age 26 and most boys through age 21.
The start of a new school year can mean the start of new healthy habits. An unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are leading causes for breast, colorectal and several other types of cancer. Teach your kids about the importance of healthy habits now to set them up for a healthy future. For more information on how lifestyle choices can increase your cancer risk, visit preventcancer.org.