Summer is coming to an end (insert sad face here), and it’s time to get into the back-to-school routine. With more work and less free time, I know that it will be trickier to keep my boys as active and healthy as they were over the summer. However, as a pediatrician, I also know that by doing a few simple things I can help make a difference in their overall health, even with all the germs that inevitably come with the classroom. And here’s the thing: The little tricks that we do in my household can work for your kids, too!
1. Unwind with exercise, not screen time. Everyone needs to veg and unwind after a long day. Rather than plopping them down in front of the TV, computer, or iPad, however, try to get active with your kids. Go out to the playground, shoot a few hoops, play a game of hopscotch, and jump rope. (If it’s raining, have a dance party in your living room!) Kids love it when their parents play with them, so join in the game. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to exercise.
2. Establish a bedtime routine and stick with it. Research shows that chronic sleep deprivation can affect children’s health and their ability to perform in school. By setting a nighttime routine, your child will know what to expect and will get tired as you flow through the routine. Actively engage your child by having him help create the routine with you; you’ll take the stress out of bedtime and make it a special time for you both to regroup and settle down after a busy day.
3. Get them to eat their fruits and veggies. A healthy diet is one of the key ingredients for a healthy body. In fact, studies have shown that children who eat more fruits and veggies are less likely to develop chronic diseases. If your child turns up her nose at the sight of cut up or cooked fruits and veggies, try to entice her to eat the good stuff with a fun squeeze pouch with a combination of organic fruit and veggies. You can also put fruits and veggies into recipes, such as oatmeal on the go.
4. Teach them to wash their hands often, especially after they use the restroom, before they eat or help prepare food, and after they sneeze or cough. Model good behavior by washing your hands with them. Good hand-washing hygiene helps to prevent the spread of germs and will keep your kids from catching as many colds this winter.
5. Don’t forget their annual checkup. It’s easy to forget the yearly checkup when your children are doing well; however, this doctor’s visit is very important. It is a time for your doctor to review your child’s health as a whole and not just address the problem at hand (like your doctor does during a sick visit). When I see patients for their check-ups, for example, I review their diet, digestive health, sleep habits, exercise habits, school performance, and discuss any concerns the parents have. I also provide guidance on what to expect in the coming year.
These tips can help you and your kids have a healthy start to the new school year. When introducing healthy habits into your home, always try to make them fun and be consistent so that your kids will be more likely to stick with them!