CSP Team Note: This article was originally featured on the Atrium Health blog. For more health and wellness content, visit AtriumHealth.org/DailyDose.
The school year is upon us. Josh Martin, MD, of Charlotte Pediatric Clinic – SouthPark, shares top tips to set your child up for success.
From homework to after-school activities, the school year keeps kids (and parents) busy. With so much going on, it’s a good idea to encourage your child to take up habits that will keep them healthy and successful all year long. Josh Martin, MD, of Charlotte Pediatric Clinic – SouthPark, shares his top tips to set your child up for school success.
1. Start a routine
“Success in school starts with good routines,” says Dr. Martin. Scheduled routines are especially important for maintaining healthy eating, sleeping, physical activity, screen time and reading habits each day.
It’s also critical to note that children absorb a tremendous amount of information simply by watching their parents. Set the tone by establishing defined routines of your own and involving your child in these habits.
2. Get your ZZZs
It’s true – kids need a lot of shut-eye. On average, children between ages 5 and 12 typically need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, while older children need 8 to 9 hours.
Dr. Martin says that good sleep habits are not only difficult to start, they’re also easy to break. “When heading back into the school year, it’s a good idea to start going to bed 10 to 15 minutes earlier every night so we can ease our bodies into a school schedule,” says Dr. Martin.
Setting a bedtime routine often helps to ease kids into an efficient sleep cycle. Dr. Martin suggests focusing on what he calls “The B’s” before heading to bed: Bathe, Bottle, Brush, Book and Bed, with age-appropriate adjustments made as the child grows older.
3. Keep your family germ-free
Stepping into the classroom for the first time during the school year can also pose a threat of increased exposure to germs. To prevent your child from getting sick and having to miss any days of school, Dr. Martin stresses the importance of keeping kids germ-free by having them wash their hands as much as possible – after using the bathroom, after coming in from the playground and after coming home from school.
4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Proper nutrition and exercise are other important aspects of establishing a successful school year. “Your body is a machine and runs on the fuel you give it,” says Dr. Martin. “If you give your body good, healthy fruits and vegetables, it’ll run like a dream. If you give your child food with processed sugar, don’t be surprised if they crash halfway through the day.”
In addition to healthy diets, it’s equally as important for children to stay active. While regular exercise is most recognized for its physical benefits, studies show it’s also associated with improved academic performance. Get your child to engage in 30 to 60 minutes of organized activity or free play each day. Join the kids in outdoor playtime and reap the benefits!
5. Minimize screen time
In this day and age, parents everywhere should be extra careful to monitor their child’s exposure to screens. The American Academy of Pediatrics set a guideline for parents to limit their child’s screen intake to two hours a day. As we’re increasingly reliant on digital media, this is proving more difficult to enforce. But according to Dr. Martin, the effort is worth it for the good of our children’s health.
“I cannot overstate the importance of building a life in which screens are excluded as much as modernity will dictate,” he says. “Life can, and should be, lived and engaged in good physical activity, good company or a good book.”
Looking for more ways to help your family stay healthy? By eating more fruits and vegetables, being physically active for at least one hour per day, limiting recreational screen time, and avoiding sugary drinks, your family can join the 5210 League and make the pledge to be healthy together. Learn more about the 5210 League.