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Back to School Health Tips from Lane Family Practice

August 14, 2013

As the school year begins, make sure you are sending your kids off to school with more than just a kiss. Children who succeed in school begin with healthy home habits.

Getting enough sleep is vital for growing children. Ten to 12 hours per day is the minimum for children ages three to six. Children between the ages seven and twelve should get at least 10 hours per day, and teenagers ages 13 to 18 should get a minimum of 8 hours per day. As your child grows older bedtimes seem to get later or disappear altogether, so it’s important to encourage teens to get enough rest.

"The older your children are, the more vital sleep becomes because of busy extra-curricular activities and social lives,” says Kathy Pate, RN at Lane Regional Medical Center. "It is important to stress the importance of getting enough rest at every age to your children.”

The next step in ensuring your child will be a star student is sending them off to school with a full tummy. Skipping breakfast in the midst of all the chaos is not only bad for the brain, but also damaging in maintaining a healthy weight. Studies show that kids who eat breakfast take in more of the nutrients they need, and cannot get those nutrients at any other time of day. Consider these healthy, kid-friendly breakfast options:

  • Half a whole-grain bagel, spread with peanut butter and topped with raisins and a glass of milk
  • 8 ounces of low-fast fruited yogurt, whole-grain toast and 100 percent juice
  • Fruit and yogurt smoothie with whole-grain toast
  • Scrambled eggs stuffed into half a whole-grain pita pocket and topped with shredded cheddar cheese and salsa or ketchup with 100 percent juice
  • A waffle sandwich: two whole-grain, toasted waffles spread with almond, peanut or soy nut butters and a glass of milk.

While schools provide children recess and P.E. classes, sometimes that exercise just isn’t enough. Don’t overestimate the amount of physical exercise your kids may be getting from school: according to a research study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 33% of students attended daily physical education classes in 2009. Encourage them to play outside and participate in fun activities that include lots of running around.

Schools can also be a breeding ground for germs. Make sure your children know how to properly wash their hands by rubbing their hands for at least 20 seconds. Singing "Happy Birthday” while hand washing is an easy way for younger kids to know just how long to wash their hands. Also, teaching your kids how to cover their noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing will prevent them from spreading germs to other children. And if a child seems to be under-the-weather, let them stay home. It’s better than going to school spreading germs and picking up extra ones with their weak immune system.