We have now entered that time of year – the ritualistic preparation for back to school. New size uniforms, school supplies, learning about your child’s new teacher, and buying community classroom supplies are just a few of the to-do items on your list of back to school preparations.
But what about preparing your child for school from a physical standpoint? Is this on your list? It should be. As a physical education teacher of over 14 years, I know that when students come to school physically unprepared, it slows their acclimation to the new year and can stunt their growth academically. Below are some key tips to ensure your child hits the ground running, pun intended, for the start of this school year.
Proper Sleep Hygiene
Among one of the first few questions I ask any student who comes to my class in a foul mood is, “Did you sleep last night?” More often than not, the answer is no. Sometimes the reason is legitimate, like a newborn crying in the middle of the night. Other times I get reasons like staying up too late, whether they were watching TV or playing video games. To me, these reasons are inexcusable. Proper sleep hygiene is important for any body, child or adult, to function at its best.
Sleep hygiene refers to certain behaviors that surround sleep habits. Cognitive sleep therapy is a burgeoning field because adults and children alike have such poor sleep habits due to our modern lifestyles. Sleep is the time when the brain processes what was learned that day and literally dumps useless information while making new connections. Some suggestions for ensuring quality sleep and maximizing learning in school are found below:
- No computer or phone two hours before sleep
- No caffeine eight hours before sleep
- No big meal before bedtime
- No TV or electronics in the bedroom
- Keep the bedroom cool and dark
- No napping during the day
- Exercise during the day
- Establish the same sleep and awake time all seven days of the week
The list and reasoning goes on. During summer vacation, many of the habits that make for good sleep can understandably be relaxed. So, it is a good idea to start reforming or tweaking them a couple of weeks prior to the start of school. Learn more about proper sleep hygiene.
This is another one of those areas where summer makes it easy to fall out of good eating habits. It is well documented that proper nutrition can lead to improvement in academics. “Did you eat breakfast or lunch?” is also one of those questions I ask when a student comes to my class lethargic. The answer is usually no. When this is the case, I find them a snack. After all, how can you concentrate on your schoolwork when you are hungry? Thankfully, many schools provide breakfast for students and free or reduced lunches. However, sometimes breakfast is still skipped due to waking up late or another circumstance the child cannot control.
Reduce Sugar Intake
Excess added sugar is linked to heart disease and other issues such as diabetes. Also, sugar will cause your child’s blood levels to spike and then drop, causing a crash in energy. Examples of areas where added sugar can hide include milks, juices, sodas, canned foods, prepared frozen foods, and yogurts. Be sure to check labels when you shop. Avoiding added sugar will help prevent your child from feeling tired all the time, which can negatively affect their ability to concentrate in school.
Eat Whole Foods
Food such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats and proteins, and whole-wheat flour based grains are generally going to be better for your child’s overall health and energy level. Foods like this take longer to digest and release energy over a longer period of time. Plus, they give the feeling of being satiated, which helps avoid the urge to snack in between meals or overindulge at a certain meal. Feeling full and having energy to last through a whole school day will help your child get the most from their schooling experience.
Eating healthy in and of itself can take years to learn and conquer. The good news is that as a parent, you have ultimate control over what is in the cupboards and where it comes from. To learn more about helping your child eat healthy, visit the KidsHealth blog.
You might have guessed this would be on the list! I teach physical education, yet I have so many children who are just dog-tired after ten minutes of a warm-up. This is a result of many things. The more children exercise early on, and learn to enjoy it, the more likely the habit will stick for life. Plus, exercise is the best way to build stamina, increase mental well-being, and increase overall health when combined with good sleep and a healthy diet. Exercise has many positive benefits for a child, including increased concentration, better memory retention, and a more positive mood.
The recommended daily exercise allotment for a child is sixty minutes. This does not mean that those sixty minutes have to come in one chunk of time. Your child can clean for ten minutes, run outside for twenty minutes, and play basketball with a friend for thirty minutes over the course of a day. As long as the child is moving, that is what matters. Depending on the age of your child, the kind of weight-bearing activities they can do will be affected. If you get them exercising to the point where they can hold a conversation, but not with complete ease, you will have them at the right intensity. Some ideas for exercise include:
- Bike riding
- Walking the dog
- Playing in the park
- Running up and down the steps
- Playing an organized sport
- Playing catch with a friend
Simply find ways to get your child active. That way when they have to be on point for an entire school day, they have the help of proper stamina and positive feelings about themselves that only exercise can provide. To gain more in-depth knowledge about exercise for your child, check out this KidsHealth article.
Improving sleep, nutrition, or exercise alone will not get your child to the point of total mental and physical preparedness for the school year. Because the school year is a marathon, and not a sprint, they will need all three facets working in sync to ensure they are in peak condition for the trials and tribulations that lie ahead. With a little lead time to get the habits started or tweaked, and some parental guidance and support, your child will be able to hit the ground running and race off to a great school year!
For some great Back to School resources and supplies visit www.ssww.com/back-to-school.
About the Author:
Charles Silberman is a physical education and health teacher with 14 years of teaching experience. He has become a leader and advocate for incoming physical educators by running workshops on teaching in limited space at staff in-services and conferences, assisting with new teacher orientations, and other initiatives. He has experience writing curriculum from scratch and writing published information specific to physical education in state and nationally recognized publications and websites. Charles has also created a niche as a physical education specialist who fuses technology and primary instructional subjects into physical education lessons.