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Health Center Today, August 25, 2010

Back to School Basics

By Carolyn Pennington

Now that the lazy days of summer are almost over, parents may need a refresher course to help their kids make a smooth transition back to class.

Dr. Latesha Dawson, pediatrician at the Health Center, offers some advice on back to school basics.

Backpack Tips:

  • Limit the weight your child carries in a backpack to 10 to 20 percent of his or her body weight.
  • Buy a backpack that has wide, padded shoulder straps.
  • Avoid messenger type, single strap bags.
  • Encourage your child to wear his backpack over both shoulders.
  • Consider using a backpack with wheels.
  • Consider having a second set of text books available at home.

Sleep Tips:

  • Push back bedtimes 10 to 15 minutes each night until the ideal bedtime is reached.
  • Children ages 5 to 12 need about 10 hours of sleep a night.
  • Teens need between eight and nine hours of sleep per night.
  • Provide a comfortable sleeping space that is cool, quiet and dark.
  • Computers and televisions can distract children from sleeping keep them out of the bedroom
  • Avoid caffeinated colas and energy drinks hours before bedtime.

Preparing Healthy Lunches:

  • Primary colors. Load up their lunchboxes with a colorful mix of fruits and vegetables to keep them energized and ready to learn. Apples, pears, berries, dried fruit, baby carrots, cauliflower, and edamame are easy to pack and fun to eat.
  • Fluid motion. Drinking plenty of fluids helps active children stay hydrated. But not all drinks are created equal. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids who drink one can of soda a day increase their obesity risk by 60 percent. Offer water and limit soft drinks (some can pack 150 calories per 12-ounce can).
  • The whole truth. Whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet for kids. Offer whole grain, low-sugar cereals at breakfast and low-sodium whole grain snack bars or crackers in their lunch box. Try making sandwiches with whole grain bread (look for "100 percent whole wheat" on labels to get the most grains).
  • Dairy queen. Strengthen their bones and brains with nonfat or low-fat dairy foods, including yogurt and flavored milk (choose products with no more than 30 grams of sugar).

Other Healthy Habits for Children:

  • Hands on. Adopting good hand-washing habits is the best way to avoid illness. Teach your child to rub her hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before eating and after using the restroom and playing outside.
  • Cover up. Teach your child to sneeze and cough into a tissue or the inside of her elbow to keep infectious droplets from spraying into the air and making other kids sick.
  • Home works. Most kids catch colds or flu from an under-the-weather classmate. Give your child the rest she needs and her classmates a break by keeping her home when she doesn't feel well.