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Healthy Homework


Start the school year off well.

From kids with first-day jitters to parents with separation anxiety, the beginning of the school year is stressful for all involved. We want to send our children to school with everything they need to succeed — including good health — but, with the pressure of buying books and school supplies, not to mention scheduling carpools and arranging after-school activities, it can be hard to keep track of everything we need to do to keep kids healthy.

As the first day of school approaches, use this checklist to prepare your kids for a healthy, fulfilling year. And, when the bus rolls up to your house, all that will be left to worry about is what you’ll do with your time now that school has started!


• Proper Packing Your child will carry a backpack every day — so it’s important to invest in one that supports good posture. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends choosing a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Place heavier items in the center of the backpack to balance the load. Also, your child’s backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of his or her weight. If your child’s school allows rolling backpacks, consider using one of these.

• Schedule Immunizations Ahead of Time Most schools require children to be up-to-date on common vaccinations and booster shots, including those for flu, meningitis and chickenpox. To avoid encountering a crush of kids and parents in the doctor’s office the week that school starts, schedule your child’s appointment now.

• Make a Meal Plan Schools often send a copy of the week’s cafeteria menu home with kids. Plan to pack healthy lunches on days when school-provided meals are less nutritious, or when they include items your child doesn’t like.

Cut up fruits and vegetables like apples or carrot sticks as soon as you get home from the grocery store, so they’re easy to throw in a sandwich bag on hurried mornings. Don’t forget to include lots of protein in every lunch to provide steady fuel for your child’s body and brain.

• Test Vision and Hearing Though some schools evaluate students’ vision, it’s worth making an appointment with an eye specialist to ensure kids are truly able to see, says Dr. Pamela Gallin, director of pediatric ophthalmology at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City.

The same guideline goes for both eyes and ears: Even if your school offers hearing evaluations, ensure that your pediatrician also performs a yearly hearing test. Kids who can’t see or hear well don’t perform as well at school — so it’s pivotal to test these senses once per year.

• Establish an Earlier Bedtime — Right Now Along with good nutrition and healthcare, sufficient sleep is pivotal for kids to succeed. Children who have adapted to going to sleep and waking up later during the summer may have a hard time getting used to an earlier schedule. Make it easier for your child to adjust: Use the last few weeks of summer to reorient your child to a school-day sleep schedule.