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Get Your Kids Ready with Dr. Tanya’s Back-to-School Checklist
As summer draws to a close, it’s time to start preparing your kids to go back to school. Getting ready for a new school year is about more than new school supplies and clothes. This Back-to School Checklist will help you make sure your kids are on track for a healthy and happy school year!
Dr. Tanya’s Seven Ss of Back to School
During the summer, kids tend to stay up later. Whether they’re running around the neighborhood, staying up late watching TV, or snapchatting, it’s now time to start moving that bedtime back a little bit earlier. You want to start by pulling it back 15 minutes every few days to get back to that appropriate bedtime for school. Your kids need to get at least 10 hours of sleep — and that’s for high school students, too. Your kids really need sleep. Three days before school starts, set the morning alarm, wake your kids up lovingly, and practice that morning routine. With a few days of practice, that first morning of school will run smoothly for everyone.
During the summer months, the amount of screen time your kids get may be higher. Maybe your kids have been watching movies, binge watching Netflix, or catching the latest Pokemon, but now is the time to sit down as a family and decide what your media use and screen time rules are going to be during the school year. In my family, we have a rule of no screen time on school nights. For other families, the limit may be set at one to two hours a night, which is the official American Academy of Pediatrics maximum recommendation for recreational screen time a day. You also want to make sure you have screen-free zones in your house, such as the kitchen table and the bedroom. One of the most important rules to follow is: no media an hour before bedtime because that can really interfere with sleep. Start working on the “brain drain” of summer and have your kids read a book or study up on something fun, like the history of their favorite sports team. Get their brains back to thinking and learning before that first day of school.
- Sugar and snacks
During the summer, I see a lot of kids eating more sugary “fun” foods, but on school days, protein is really important. You want to decrease sugar in the morning and feed your kids a healthy and protein-rich breakfast of eggs and dairy products or nut butters on whole-grain bread. Protein-rich foods help your kids focus and concentrate during the school day and keep them full and energized longer. Pack healthy snacks and plain water in their bags so your kids get used to drinking water throughout the day, especially important as the heat in Southern California lasts well into late fall.
Every child needs to be up to date in vaccines — it’s a new California state law. A lot of parents are emailing me to get those shot records so be sure to check with your doctor and ensure that all shots are up to date before the back-to-school rush. Now is also the time to have your kid checked from head to toe. And don’t forget vision! Your kids can’t learn if they can’t see the board.
Be sure to pick a backpack that isn’t going to be too heavy. The rule of thumb is that children’s backpacks should not be more than ¼ of their body weight. You also want to make sure that backpacks have padded straps and really encourage your kids to wear their backpacks using both straps. Some people like rolling backpacks but they don’t always fit in lockers and can be very heavy to carry up stairs.
- Study space
Your kids need a clean, organized space to do their homework and study in quiet. Keeping it clutter free and making sure there are no distractions in sight will go a long way towards keeping kids focused and engaged in their homework.
Back to school can be a stressful time for both kids and adults. Talk to your kids about any concerns they may have and run through the school-day routine. Re-introduce them to old friends they may not have seen over the summer and encourage them to make new friends, too. A few days before school starts, go to the school together, walk around, and get a “lay of the land” so your children are more comfortable on that first day back. Enjoy the last few days of summer and start putting your family’s back-to-school plan in motion now to ensure a smooth transition for all.
Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP, is the founder of Calabasas Pediatrics. She’s also a best-selling parenting book author and assistant clinical professor at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.