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Soon to be gone are the lazy, relaxed days of summer.  With summer coming to an end, it’s time to get back to some structure and routine and the best way to start the school year off right is with healthy habits…

Sleep   

If you are like most families, your kids have probably been staying up way too late and sleeping in, with no real schedule for sleep.  It goes without saying that sleep is essential for all of us to function, and research has proven that kids need a lot of sleep to function effectively during the day.  In fact, sleep-deprived children are often fidgety, or even disruptive, in the classroom, and poor quality sleep can lead to anxiety, depression, defiance, poor grades and poor school performance.

So how much sleep do your kids need?  Between the ages of 5 and 11, kids need about 10-11 hours of sleep every night, while 12 to 18 year olds need at least 9 hours a night.  With that being said, now is the time to get your kids back into the habit of a healthy bedtime and nighttime routine; once you start, it’s important to stick to it and stay consistent, even on weekends.  If your kids are used to staying up late, have them go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until they are back to their school bedtime.  To help them wind down and relax, have an age-appropriate calming bedtime routine.  I vote for a bath or shower, then reading for pleasure, but you can come up with your own routine — just make sure it’s the same every night so they associate it with sleep.  Make the bedroom a cool and comfortable sleep environment with a properly fitting bed and bedding.  Lastly, turn off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime and keep them out of the bedroom, as they are both stimulating and a distraction.

Breakfast

While sleep gives the body time to recharge and grow, a good breakfast gives the body and brain the energy it needs to think, pay attention, and stay in a good mood.  A good breakfast is also associated with increased academic & athletic performance, improved immune function and decreased incidence of obesity.  It’s no secret that breakfast is important, but did you know it might even make your kids smarter?  New research shows that kids who eat breakfast every day perform better on tests compared to kids who only eat breakfast occasionally. Here are some healthy/quick ideas: oatmeal with yogurt and berries, healthy banana bread with peanut butter, whole grain waffle with peanut butter (top it with sliced banana), fruit and cheese, breakfast burritos (made ahead of time and pulled from the freezer), and smoothies.

My final suggestion, practice what you preach. Children learn by example, and one of the best ways to get your kids to adopt these healthy habits is to follow them yourself.  Enjoy the rest of the summer and have a well-rested, healthy start to the school year!



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