It’s back-to-school time, which means lots of getting ready. It’s a time of year that is full of shopping — and planning. Life changes so much from the end of summer to school time; so many routines and activities change.
That’s why it’s the perfect time to add some plans, and changes, that can make your child healthier. With all the plans and changes you’re making anyway, you’re much less likely to meet resistance than if you try it later in the year.
Here’s what I suggest:
■ Plan for your children to be active. Have your children pick a sport — maybe plan on having them play one each season (fall, winter, spring). Or sign them up for a dance class (my son’s best friend and his brothers do hip-hop), or skating or swimming lessons. Maybe decide to walk or bike to school a few days a week. If you talk about it together and ahead of time, kids are more likely to be enthusiastic about it.
■ Plan healthy meals and snacks. We all start out with the best of intentions, but then we get busy, and buying lunch at school or packing that bag of chips ends up being what works for our life. This year, get some cookbooks and plan healthy, packable lunches and snacks. Try them out this month, see what everyone likes best, and figure out the best way to pack them so they stay fresh and appealing (experiment with making them the night before, or a few days ahead, for time-saving options). The Healthy Family Fun website of Boston Children’s Hospital has some great recipes you should check out. Then, when the school year starts, you’ll be ready to go.
■ Plan a schedule that gives your child 10 hours of sleep every night, and some down time. So even though I said to sign them up for sports or other activities, don’t overdo it. Make sure there is some unscheduled time for them to relax; it’s important for their mental health and yours — running kids around all day is stressful. Talk together about when (and where) they will do homework — don’t let it wait until they are tired or out of time. Decide on a bedtime, and stick to it.
■ While you’re at it, make some plans for family time. Childhood goes by so quickly; before you know it, they will be grown and gone. So plan some family outings, or even just movie nights and game nights. Make it part of the routine. You’ll be glad you did.Dr. Claire McCarthy is a pediatrician and medical communications editor at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.