5 ways to create a school-year routine for healthy kids
A consistent, predictable routine that works for your family is essential to raising healthy kids. Transitioning from summertime to the new school year can be challenging, but having the right routine can help set them up for success.
Children and teens often need a lot of guidance and support to start and stick with changes in their day. When you teach your kids how to create and follow routines, you give them a sense of stability and help them develop skills they need to succeed, such as:
- Flexible thinking
- Following step-by-step instructions
- Time management
New routines can be challenging for everyone in the family, and the excitement and stress of starting a new school year can make them even harder. Now that school is in session again, help your child find a routine that will work for the rest of the school year.
Here are five ways to help kids create, adjust, and stick with school routines.
Difficulty waking up may be a sign of too little or poor-quality sleep. Try adjusting your bedtimes and keep phones, tablets, and other electronics out of their bedroom. If you have a child who continues to struggle with significant morning sleepiness after adjusting to their new routine, talk with their primary care provider (PCP).
Once your children are up, the next step is to establish a morning routine for school that allows them to do what they need to so they can get out the door on time. Sit down with your children and make a list of everything they need to do to get ready for school each morning.
Think about which tasks can be done the night before and which ones must happen in the morning. For example, your child or teen could pack their backpack, pick out their clothes, or shower before bedtime.
Even with well-practiced routines, the first few weeks of school can be very busy for the whole family. Setting time aside for healthy snack and meal planning increases the chance everyone will choose healthy options over fast food on particularly rushed or stressful days.
To save time in the morning, pack lunches the night before. Create a designated spot for easy-to-grab healthy options in the fridge, pantry or on the counter. Pick a location kids can easily see and reach.
Quick, healthy lunch and snack options include:
Cut raw vegetables
Dried fruit without added sugar
Nut butter without added salt or sugar
Whole-grain bread or crackers
Gathering together for dinner time can be an excellent opportunity for family bonding. To keep up with what's happening at school, consider using conversation cards to encourage lively mealtime discussions.
Free time improves children's creativity, problem-solving, and the ability to independently manage their behavior and emotions. Help your children make a list of activities they enjoy and hang it on the fridge. When they're bored or aren't sure what to do, encourage them to look at their list. Ideas might include:
- Doing a puzzle
- Listening to music
- Playing a board game
- Reading a book
- Riding their bike
Regular physical activity is also important. Children and teens need at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. Staying physically active helps:
- Boost brain health
- Develop strong bones and muscles
- Ensure good-quality sleep
- Increase mood and decrease risk of depression
- Lower the risk of chronic health conditions in adulthood
- Maintain a healthy body weight
Enrolling your child in dance classes or sports teams can get them moving. Unstructured activities like playing tag with friends or taking a family hike are also excellent choices.
Bedtime comes at the end of the day, but sleep is essential for healthy kids to get a good start in the morning. Getting enough sleep is vital for mental and physical health and improves school success. A consistent bedtime routine helps children relax and get ready for sleep. It can also enhance the quality of sleep and help kids sleep longer.
An effective bedtime routine follows the same steps every day, even on weekends. Start the routine before your children get overly sleepy. Begin by turning off screens. Light from phones, tablets, or TV can interfere with sleep.
Your family's routine might include:
- Eating a healthy snack (but brushing teeth just before bed!)
- Massaging hands or feet with lotion
- Reading a book
- Singing a quiet song
- Taking a bath or shower
- Talking quietly about your child's day
Kids ages 6 to 12 need about nine to 12 hours of sleep each night, while teens need eight to 10 hours.
New routines take time. Be patient with your kids and yourself while you adjust. Even though school has started, it's not too late to find the right routine. Before too long, you will all find your groove. If someone has an off day, take a deep breath and know the next day will bring another opportunity to return to the new school routine.
Talk to a Reid Health pediatrician for more tips on keeping your children healthy throughout the school year.