Back-to-School Parent Prep for a Healthy Year

Child stands next to school buses

By Nuvance Health


It’s that time of year again to dust off the alarm clock, hunt down those school supplies and reinstate routines. We know the excitement — and anxieties — that come with going back to school. We understand many are eager for the return of some normalcy and emphasis on personal connections while balancing the need to keep COVID-19 infections low. To help parents, Nuvance Health providers share tips to ensure your children have a successful, healthy school year.

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. And it’s a great opportunity to discuss a COVID-19 vaccination with your child’s doctor. Nuvance Health providers are available for these appointments and provide as safe as possible in-person care. Find out about important school vaccination guidelines in New York state here and in Connecticut here.

Sleep Hygiene

Dr. Jay D’Orso, internal medicine and pediatrician with Nuvance Health Medical Practice in Ridgefield, Conn., says: “Adequate 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.”

Did you know?

  • 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.

Tips for good sleep:

  • Ensure children get 1-2 hours of vigorous exercise/play each day.
  • Avoid caffeine, especially in the evening (dark chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, hot fudge, etc.).
  • No screen time within 60 minutes of sleep (electronics/video games in bedrooms).
  • Avoid or limit naps to 20-30 minutes.
  • Bedrooms should be dark, quiet and cool.
  • Stick to regular bedtimes, preferably with calming routines and consistent wake-up times.
  • If a child falls asleep on the bus or in class, or naps after school, they need more sleep.

Backpack Safety

Danbury Hospital’s Supervisor of Pediatric Rehabilitation Carolyn Howell and physical therapist Jennifer Barstrom say: A growing child could suffer an injury when backpacks are unreasonably heavy or worn incorrectly. Ideally, the backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of the child’s weight.

Tips for backpack safety:

  • Use both shoulder straps and any additional straps such as across the chest or waist. If a backpack is consistently worn over one shoulder, this may cause the child to lean to one side, curve the spine and cause pain or discomfort.
  • Backpacks with multiple compartments are preferable, as weight can be more evenly distributed throughout the backpack.
  • At the beginning of school year, show your children how to wear their backpack appropriately.
  • Download textbooks onto their laptop, if possible, to avoid the need to carry textbooks between home and school.
  • Children may want ask for any teacher handouts to be digital to limit the need to carry additional weight.
  • Children should avoid carrying large three-ring binders whenever possible; the use of separate folders or a small binder is preferable.



Lauren Timmerman, nutrition manager at Norwalk Hospital, says:

“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."


  • The morning can be hectic for many families. Meal prep ahead of time. Wash fruits and vegetables and separate into grab-and-go portions. Ideas: quick oats with berries and nut butter; whole wheat waffles with berries and Greek yogurt; egg sandwich on an English muffin; and creamy fruit smoothies with frozen bananas.

Healthy snacks:

  • 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; and peanut butter and banana quesadilla.


  • Make a lunch with a protein, whole grain and two fresh fruits or vegetables per meal.
  • Encourage children 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.

Do you need to schedule a back-to-school physical? Nuvance Health offers pediatric, family medicine and primary care in locations close to home and via telemedicine. You can search for a provider near you here or learn more about these services here.

For more back-to-school tips, visit Nuvance Healthline.