The school year is once again in full-swing. With backpacks in tow and new shoes bouncing on the pavement, the start of another year brings anticipation of new friends and exciting challenges.
For parents, the start of another school year brings lengthy lists of necessary school supplies that often include items like disinfectant wipes, paper towels, hand sanitizer and tissues. These seemingly non-essential classroom necessities often elicit an exasperated sigh from many parents, whose childhood school lists typically only included fresh boxes of crayons, newly-sharpened pencils and clean pink erasers.
Requests for disinfectants and hand sanitizer, however, should be the happiest of purchases when shopping the list of supplies. Unlike the crayons, pencils and erasers, the sanitizers, tissues and disinfectant wipes all aid teachers in helping kids stay well and off the sick list.
Many kids nationwide will miss school because of an illness, and accruing days of absence means losing out on crucial classroom instruction. In the National Survey of Children’s Health conducted during the 2011-2012 school year, the study found that more than half of students missed between one and five days of school because of illness or injury and more than 12 percent missed between six and 10 days.
Keeping a child well during an entire year might not always be feasible. Still, parents can proactively ensure children learn healthy habits that help small bodies stay strong and able to wrestle tough bacteria and viruses.
Support good attendance during the year by following these healthy helpful hints:
- Set an enforceable bedtime. Different age groups need different amounts of sleep, and most kids will need between 10-13 hours of sleep each night. Plan bedtimes accordingly.
- Maintain a meal schedule. Don’t allow kids to skip meals, especially breakfast. Growing kids need energy for the day, and skimping on meals also means cheating a body out of necessary vitamins, minerals and calories.
- Avoid dehydration. Drink water or milk, but say no to sugary sodas and artificial juice drinks. Water is the best choice, and it also is found in lymph fluid…which is part of the body’s immune system.
- Got milk? A great source of calcium, which helps build strong bones, milk helps growing bodies stay strong. Kids who are lactose intolerant or abide a vegan lifestyle can get their daily dose of calcium in milk alternatives like soy milk and almond milk. All come in a variety of flavors.
- Exercise. Get outside with kids and ride bikes, skateboard, hike or run. If the weather outside is frightful, head to the basement or the garage and get fit indoors. Watch a yoga instruction video online and learn together. Or think out of the fitness box and grab some hula hoops to move and strengthen core muscles.
- Don’t share drinks. That metal spicket on the school’s water fountain houses more germs than a toilet seat. Teach kids not to put their mouth on the water fountain or send them to school with a water bottle. Never let them share drinks with friends.
- Good hygiene goes a long way. Proper hand washing is essential in the war against germs. Instruct children to wash hands after going to the restroom and after lunch or snack. If they can’t get to a sink, send a bottle of hand sanitizer…if this wasn’t on the school supply list already.
- Cough, sneeze and cover. Always cover a cough and sneeze with the bend of the arm. Tell children not to use hands to cover coughs or sneezes, as this allows their hands to spread germs.
- Schedule a back-to-school physical. Once a year—preferably before the school year begins—make an appointment with the pediatrician for a physical. A yearly visit allows kids to be assessed for any health concerns. This appointment also is the most opportune time to arm a child with a flu shot.
- Eat smart. Healthy eating creates a healthy body. Help little bodies stay strong by feeding them a diet full of lean meats and fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and veggies helps decrease the risk of obesity and leads to better nutrition…and also improves attendance. Kids can be picky about veggies, so test taste a variety to find foods they love.
Heading back to school doesn’t have to mean catching the latest classroom illness. Parents can keep kids in school by being proactive about nutrition and teaching healthy habits.
By: Cassie Brewer