School is right around the corner! In the midst of all the August crazy with tax-free weekend, back-to-school shopping and the fair, there are little steps you can take to make sure the kids (and you!) have an easy transition into a school routine. By adding little steps week-by-week, you and your family can divvy up responsibilities and won’t feel as overwhelmed when summer comes to an end. An easy way to start is by creating a checklist for your morning and evening routines. By creating a checklist, your brain has an easier time putting simple tasks, like brushing your teeth, on autopilot as wake up or wind down for the day. In addition to the checklist, think of the day in these four timeframes and implement healthy habits for each part of the day.
We all know that morning routines are important for setting the tone for the day. Giving yourself and your child ample time to wake up in the morning and then fueling your body with healthy grains, vitamins and fats will help maintain energy levels and productivity throughout the day. One way to ease the morning stress is to meal prep breakfast options. Empower your children to make healthy choices by giving them a morning menu that incorporates protein, fruit and vegetables into their diet. Egg bakes, healthy muffins, turkey sausage, smoothies and fresh fruit/veggies are all easy options to prep ahead of time and/or freeze.
Schools do a great job at adding in healthy food options for children but are limited by the volume of kids they are responsible for feeding each day. In order to make lunches feasible, some of the foods they serve contain ingredients that many kids are sensitive to, impacting their ability to focus and behave in school. Help the school out by packing a lunch for your child a couple of times per week. This will help cut down on the amount of processed foods, artificial colors, artificial flavors and preservatives your child is exposed to. Add a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, soup, sandwiches, dried meats, nuts and seeds to their lunch box to ensure they are eating foods that support brain and gut health. Check our Pinterest page for more healthy school lunch ideas.
In an ideal world, homework comes before play. But after a long day of sitting in class, doing homework will be like pulling teeth. I always encourage parents to let kids play constructively to burn off energy before sitting them down to hit the books. Movement drives brain function by providing healthy input, keeps joints healthy, decreases stress and improves productivity. When kids are out playing, they spend less time on electronics. Limit electronics to 30-60 minutes per day at home. Many schools incorporate technology in a learning setting, which has increased the amount of time kids use screens and play games.
Sleep is vitally important to keeping your brain and body healthy. To maximize the benefits of sleep, get your kids in the habit of going to bed at the same time. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule helps the brain regulate it’s alert and wakefulness periods, which cuts down on headaches, irritability, fatigue, mood swings and school performance issues. Good sleep routines also help to regulate the digestive system. Ideally, preschool-aged children should get at least 10 hours of sleep per night, pre-teens 9 hours of sleep and teenagers 8 hours of sleep. To help relax the mind before bed, encourage no screens at least an hour before bed. Instead, replace screens with healthy habits like mindfulness exercises, meditation or reading fiction books. Kids that are well-rested are sick less, focus better, regulate their emotions easier and store information easier.
You can set your whole family up for success each day with these healthy habits. And change takes time. So pick one thing, perhaps breakfast, that you can focus on this week and start finding a rhythm and routine that works best for your family. You may need to test some new recipes, figure out freezer foods for breakfast that you can batch-cook on the weekends, start waking up at an earlier time to prepare for school. Start small and then build upon the success of each healthy habit!
Let us know in the comments, what is one healthy back-to-school tip that helps your family get back into the swing of things each year?