How to prepare for back to school and keep your child healthy

As the whole country bursts into a flurry of supply buying, label printing, and disinfecting madness; thoughts of “what to pack for lunch, how to prevent back-to-school sickness, and how to calm those first-day jitters” swirl in the minds of parents whose kids are getting ready for the new school year. 

Preparation lays the groundwork for a quality start. So, here are some healthy ways to prepare for back to school and a few things to think about to keep your kid healthy. 

Establish a kid’s nutrition plan

  1. Have a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as well as lean proteins and healthy non-saturated fats. These will give kids the energy they need to play and learn.
  2. Limit processed foods and sugary cereals as much as possible. Ultra-processed foods pack more calories, sugar and fat. They are also low in fiber and key nutrients. A new study found that children ages 3 to 5 who consumed more ultra-processed foods had poorer locomotor skills than children who consumed less of these, and the study also showed lower cardiovascular fitness in 12- to 15-year-olds who consumed more of these foods.
  3. Encourage your kids to practice putting lunch bags together before bedtime. Not only will it help to ensure that the lunch you pack won’t come home uneaten, but it also helps teach kids responsibility and organization.

To help you create a healthy kid’s nutrition plan, you can refer to the Kid’s Healthy Eating Plate, created by The Harvard School of Public Health.

Shopping consciously and honoring your kid’s feedback on your grocery list (to a nutritional extent) can lay the ground for a happy transition to enjoying lunch out of a brown paper bag or an awesome lunchbox. 

Create a healthy back-to-school routine 

Having a routine that upholds the “to-dos” of the day not only supports building healthy habits but also ensures your child knows what to expect. You can ensure a child’s future success by helping them create good routines like putting away their backpacks, changing out of school clothes, and starting homework, right when they arrive home. Setting aside a designated homework space that is a comfortable workspace equipped with books and supplies can be a great way to quell the pains of sitting down to do homework.

Teaching kids to keep themselves organized can be a huge stress reliever and doable with the right encouragement and assistance. Establish a routine for using planners: once it becomes a habit, it becomes so much easier.

Importance of a full night’s rest 

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), routinely getting the sleep that’s needed is linked with better attention, behavior, learning, memory, ability to regulate emotions, quality of life, and mental and physical health in children and teenagers. The AASM recommends preschoolers get 10 to 13 hours of sleep, grade schoolers get 9 to 12 hours and teenagers get 8 to 10 hours.  A consistent bedtime routine can prepare kids to go down for the night. Part of this routine involves having downtime, which can include straightening up the room, taking a bath or reading a book. Also, make sure to help children practice good sleep hygiene. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time, and no screens for at least an hour before bed.

Set your child with special health needs up for success 

If your child has asthma or an allergy that can cause anaphylaxis, have your child’s health plan documented and in place at school in case of emergency. Ensure the school has your child's EpiPen and inhalers on hand and your child's teacher is familiar with the plan.

Emotionally prepare your child for the new school year

Children may feel nervous about the start of a new school year. Having conversations with kids about what makes them anxious can help by understanding their feelings or finding ways to address their worries. Stopping by the school and meeting with the teacher before your kid’s first day of school can also ease nervousness. 

Bring attention to the upside of starting the new school year to foster enthusiasm in kids. If your child is excited about art class or joining a club, put a spotlight on it. 

Bacto to School Infographic

School physicals FAQs

What is included in a child’s physical exam? 

Back-to-school physicals can include checking vital signs like blood pressure, monitoring growth and development, covering child and adolescent health topics and administering vaccines. 

Immunizations protect against some of the most common and preventable diseases. Work with your pediatrician and school administrators to ensure your kids are up-to-date on all required immunizations. 

Which health screenings are usually provided by schools?

School health screenings typically include tests for hearing and sight. Trouble hearing or seeing can significantly impact the learning that happens in the classroom. Health screenings may also involve checking for blood pressure, height, weight, mobility, and testing for scoliosis. 

How do you deal with a crying child on the first day of school?

Having a routine in place for your kid’s first day of school when it’s time to say goodbye by sticking to a regular time and a brief but attentive goodbye ritual can help with this transition. Dropping your child off at school can be challenging, and sticking around for too long to say goodbye may even prolong the anxious feelings that arise when kids part from their parents. 

Visit urgent care for school physicals or pediatric care

Our urgent care centers offer pediatric urgent care designed for kids and staffed by pediatric specialists during the day, after hours and on weekends. We treat conditions that are not life-threatening, including flu, fever, earaches, insect bites, sprains, simple fractures and cuts requiring stitches. We can help with back-to-school physicals and are in network with most children’s health plans. 

Our urgent care partners also provide immunization services. To learn about immunization requirements in schools, find our article here