Ask the Pediatrician: Back-to-School Checklist

As this sort-of-normal summer ends, it’s time to start prepping kids to go back to school. But getting ready is about more than just new sneakers, a cool mask, and school supplies. To help make sure your kids are on track for a healthy and happy school year, check out this back-to-school checklist.

  1. Sleep
    Since kids stay up later during the summer, it’s now time to start moving bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every few days until you hit the bedtime for school. All kids need at least 10 hours of sleep (tweens and teens too!). Sleep is important for a growing body and learning brain. Three days before school, set the alarm, wake your kids up lovingly, and practice that morning routine.

  2. Sugar and snacks
    During the summer (and the pandemic), everyone has been eating more sugary, colorful, “fun” foods, but on school days, decrease sugar and artificial colors and feed your kids a healthy and protein-rich breakfast of eggs, dairy products, or nut butters on whole-grain bread. Protein-rich foods help kids focus at school and keep them full and energized longer. Pack healthy snacks and a refillable water bottle too.

  3. Screens
    During COVID and summer, screen time has increased. In addition to classes and activities being online, many binge watch Netflix or viral videos. Decide as a family what your screen-time rules are going to be. Some families use one to two hours a night—the official American Academy of Pediatrics maximum recommendation for recreational screen time a day. Most importantly, keep screen-free zones in your house—like the kitchen table and bedrooms. Also have a media curfew, which means an hour before bedtime all screens turn off and charge in a central location.

  4. Shots
    Every child needs to be up to date on vaccines—it’s a California state law. And kids age 12 and up should also get their COVID vaccine. This will not only help protect them but the entire community, including those too young to be vaccinated.

  5. Supplies
    Pick a backpack that isn’t too heavy when it’s full of books. Children’s backpacks should not be more than ¼ of their body weight. Backpacks need padded straps and should be carried on both shoulders. Rolling backpacks don’t always fit in lockers and can be heavy to carry up stairs.

  6. Stress
    Back to school can be a stressful time for everyone, especially since we are still in a pandemic. Talk to your kids about any concerns they may have. Re-introduce them to old friends and encourage them to make new friends, too. A few days before school starts, go to the school together and walk around (if possible), so they are more comfortable on that first day.

  7. Study
    Start working on the summer “brain drain” and have your kids read a book or study something fun, like the history of their favorite sports team. Get their brains back to thinking and learning. Clean and organize so they have a set space to do homework and study in quiet, without distractions.

  8. Stay home when sick
    To keep kids in school, we all need to be extra careful to not send anyone who is potentially sick to school. Stay in touch with your pediatrician and COVID test your child if there is any concern of exposure or symptoms.

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 this fall. Let’s get kids back to school and keep them in school this year, where they belong!