4 back-to-school tips to prepare for a healthy year

Young dad walks young son wearing a backpack to school


Own back-to-school time with annual physicals and immunizations, sleep hygiene, backpack safety and nutritious, easy meals


It’s that time of year again to dust off the alarm clock, hunt down those school supplies and pick out the perfect first-day-of-school outfit. We know the excitement — and anxieties — that come with going back to school.


Here are tips to ensure your children have a successful, healthy school year.

1) Annual physicals and immunizations


A back-to-school physical exam is an essential part of the start of a new school year, as many districts require immunizations and regular checkups. You can also get ahead of sports physicals if your child plays fall or winter sports.


Find a pediatrics location


2) Sleep hygiene


Getting enough sleep contributes to the foundation of a healthy child. Especially as kids return to school, insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality may manifest as changes in energy, mood, behavior, memory and attention.

How much sleep do children need?

  • Preschoolers need 11 to 12 hours of sleep.
  • Children ages 6 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep.
  • Adolescents ages 13 to 18 need 9 hours of sleep.


Good sleep for kids tips

  • Stick to regular bedtimes with calming routines and consistent wake-up times.
  • Keep bedrooms dark, quiet and cool.
  • Avoid or limit naps to 20 to 30 minutes during the day.
  • Ensure children get one to two hours of vigorous exercise/play each day.
  • Avoid caffeine, especially in the evening from desserts including dark chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, brownies and hot fudge.
  • Avoid screen time within 60 minutes of going to sleep. Swap books for electronics including video games in the bedroom.


If your child falls asleep on the bus or in class, or naps after school, they need more sleep.


Related content: Beat back-to-school germs

3) Backpack safety for kids


A growing child could suffer an injury when backpacks are unreasonably heavy or worn incorrectly. Ideally, the backpack should not weigh more than 10% of the child’s weight.

Tips for backpack safety

  • Choose a backpack with multiple compartments because the weight can be more evenly distributed throughout the backpack.
  • At the beginning of the school year, show your children how to wear their backpacks appropriately. This includes using both shoulder straps and any additional straps such as across the chest or waist. If a backpack is consistently worn over one shoulder, your child may lean to one side, curve the spine and cause pain or discomfort.
  • If possible, download textbooks onto your child’s laptop to avoid lugging around textbooks between home and school. Plus, ask your child’s teacher if handouts can be digital to limit carrying additional weight.
  • Avoid carrying large three-ring binders whenever possible and use separate folders or a small binder instead.

4) Nutrition for kids


This school year, prioritize whole (real) foods, such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables for your family. As much as you can, avoid prepackaged goods with preservatives and artificial flavors.


Breakfast tips

The morning can be hectic for many families. Meal prep ahead of time can help manage the mornings. For example, wash fruits and vegetables and separate them into grab-and-go portions. Here are easy and nutritious breakfast ideas:

  • Quick oats with berries and nut butter
  • Whole wheat waffles with berries and Greek yogurt
  • Egg sandwich on an English muffin
  • Creamy fruit smoothies with frozen bananas

Snack tips

Pre-pack snacks for the whole week and include:

  • Cheese and whole grain crackers
  • Veggies sticks and hummus
  • Sliced pears with ricotta cheese
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Peanut butter and banana quesadilla

Lunch tips

  • Make a lunch with a protein, whole grain and two fresh fruits or vegetables per meal.
  • Encourage your kids to pick out produce at the supermarket that interests them, so they are more likely to eat what you buy.
  • Add vegetables into sandwiches and fruits into yogurt parfaits.
  • Tired of the same sandwiches? Try rolling up a slice of turkey with apples and cheese and add whole grain crackers on the side.
  • Short on time? Freeze peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole grain bread ahead of time. Just add a side of fruit for a quick and easy school lunch.


Related content: Easy back-to-school meal prep tips


The bottom line: You can own back-to-school time by focusing on four essential areas. Visit your pediatrician for your child’s annual physical and immunizations. Sleep hygiene is key for physical and mental health and optimal learning for your kid. Backpack safety will help protect your kid’s shoulders and back and keep them light and energized during the day. Fuel your family’s mind and body with meal prep, whole grains, fruits and veggies. You’ve got this!