Help ensure kids get a healthy start for school

The first day of school will come up faster than you know it.

  • Aug. 23, 2012 7:00 a.m.

The first day of school will come up faster than you know it, especially when racing around gathering up all of the required school supplies, outfits, and the like.

But during all of the hustle and bustle, don’t forget to think about how to keep them healthy and alert as they sit through all of their classes.

Pack healthy lunches: Parents strive to give their children the nutrition they need. However, how do you make sure your kids actually eat it, rather than trashing or trading it? You need to make the food appealing. For example:

• Keep it petite: Little people enjoy little portions so they can snack through the day. Consider substituting the double-decker hero sandwich for several smaller items.

• Add fun with finger foods: Experiment with nutritious dips and spreads for veggies and crackers. Alternatively, boil an egg they can peel themselves.

• Consult your kid: There is no better way to ensure they eat their lunch than by getting their buy-in. Find out what their favourite snacks are and shop accordingly.

Start a “walking” school bus: More than half of Canadian children aren’t as active as they need to be to ensure healthy development. Walking is a great way to promote physical activity in kids. To make it fun, start a walking group supervised by an adult (usually a parent) that collects neighbourhood students at prearranged stops and times.

Look for head lice: When kids are clustered together in classrooms, it’s a prime time for parasites to go body hopping. Head lice cause itching and a sensation that something is moving on the scalp.

To manage this check your child’s hair weekly for signs of lice or nits and don’t allow your child to share a brush, comb or hair accessories with friends.

Anticipate back-to-school stress: There are many sources of back-to-school stress, including adjusting to new teachers and classmates. Pacific Blue Cross’s My Good Health Portal contains a number of clues that your child may be stressed — ranging from bedwetting to headaches. Sometimes stress has a more serious cause, such as bullying or a school-related phobia. Look out for signs of stress such as clinginess, crying, irritability, sudden bedwetting or sleep disturbances.  If your child is stressed, talk to them about coping techniques or solutions. If appropriate, involve a teacher in problem solving and check in with your family doctor if the stress seems unmanageable.

Margaret Ng is a health and wellness manager for the Pacific Blue Cross.