Healthy habits for back to school time
It’s that time of year that brings anticipation, hope, and dread … it’s back to school time!
For some children going back to school is a happy time. They look forward to meeting up with friends, they are bored watching daytime television and look forward to the challenges a new academic year will bring. Other children find the experience anxiety provoking and take longer to settle into the new routine of school life.
Similar to New Year’s Eve, starting a new academic year can be a good opportunity to make some new resolutions. Starting with some new habits can help your child hit the ground running when they start school.
Here are four fantastic habits that will help kick off the year on the right foot:
- Get organised. Make sure that all school equipment is packed and ready to go the night before. There is nothing worse than the frantic early morning rush. Encourage your child to do their homework promptly and avoid leaving it till the last minute. You will be setting up good habits for later on in life.
- Pack healthy lunches and snacks. Fresh fruits, chopped up veggies, currants and raisins, wholemeal bread and a bit of protein to keep energy levels up throughout the day. A recent study by Belot & James (2011) looked into the effects of introducing healthy eating to a school. The researchers found that healthier eating improved educational outcomes in English and Science and reduced absences linked to illness and health by 14%.
- Talk more. Chatting to your child about your first day at school can help them realise that it is normal to feel a little nervous when they go back to school. Similarly, throughout the year your child may express concern about something that is bothering them at school. By sharing some of the worries you experienced at school this can help the problem solving process.If you ask your child how their day went it is also normal to only get the shrugged response, ‘it was okay!’ If you want more of a dialogue try a different approach by asking open ended questions i.e. what did you enjoy?, what did you play during recess? Apparently Albert Einstein’s mother never asked him ‘what did you learn today?’ but ‘what questions did you ask?’
- Sleep well. Healthy sleep is vital to help children concentrate and make the most of school. They need between 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night. Research by Curico (2006) showed that the quality and quantity of sleep are closely related to learning capacity and academic performance. Curico’s study also shows that sleep loss is associated with poorer academic performance. One of the best ways to train your child’s body to sleep well is to go to bed and get up at more or less the same time every day. Children like to know what to expect.
- Belot, M. & James, J. (2011) Healthy school meals and educational outcomes. Journal of Health Economics (30) pp.489-504. (http://faculty.smu.edu/millimet/classes/eco7377/papers/belot%20james%202011.pdf)
- Curico, G., Ferrar, M., & De Gennaro, L. (2006) Sleep loss, learning capacity and academic performance. Sleep Medicine Review 10, pp.323-337