As students head back to the classroom, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) encourages all parents to take steps to make sure kids have a healthy and successful school year.
“We know that when children’s basic health needs are met through proper nutrition, regular exercise and good sleep habits, they perform better in school and are better able to handle the stresses of the school setting,” said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. “Parents play a significant role in helping kids make healthy choices throughout the school day.”
HEALTH encourages all parents to:
- Make time for breakfast. A healthy start to the day begins with a nutritious breakfast for students — and parents. Be a good role model by making breakfast part of your morning routine.
- Keep lunch and snacks healthy. Fill lunchboxes with plenty of lean protein, fresh fruits and veggies. Avoid soda and energy drinks, and allow limited servings of 100-percent juice. Encourage kids to drink plenty of water — from the tap is fine.
- Encourage physical activity. With physical education time limited in many school districts, it’s more important than ever for parents to provide opportunities for physical activity and unstructured play. Be sure to protect kids against mosquito bites by limiting outdoor play at dusk, using bug spray with no more than 30 percent DEET, and dressing kids in long pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect their skin.
- Get kids immunized. Fall is the perfect time to schedule immunizations, both for childhood diseases and for influenza. See your primary care physician or visit one of HEALTH’s school-based vaccination clinics. You’ll find a list of upcoming clinics here: http://www.health.ri.gov/flu/about/clinics/school/
- Limit screen time. Encourage kids to stay active by setting house rules for screen time — television, computers and gaming systems — and enforcing them. Keep television and computers out of kids’ bedrooms to promote good sleep habits.
- Create healthy bedtime routines. Depending on their age, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends between 8.5 and 13 hours of sleep for kids. Help yours wind down by creating a calming evening routine such as a bath, reading or spending quiet family time together.