When the calendar turns to August, I find myself saying the same four words, “Where did summer go?” Families with kids adapted to a summer schedule filled with ball games, camp, swimming lessons, and 4-H activities and now the schedule is about to change again! With the start of school just a few short weeks away it is the perfect time to call a family meeting and get everyone on board with the new routine.
Research shows that kids ages 3 to 6 need ten to 12 hours of sleep each day. As youngsters begin pre-school or the early grades it is important to have a set bedtime with a routine that encourages success. Perhaps you want to target 8 p.m. as bedtime. If so you will want to begin the wind down process around 7. Perhaps a warm bath and bed time story help your child to relax. Planning what will be worn the next day or eaten for breakfast also encourages a less hectic morning when the alarm goes off. Whatever you want to adopt as a routine, now is a good time to start working toward your final goal. If the summer schedule has been lax, start moving the bedtime up a few minutes each day until your target is reached. That should help make the first day of school a success.
One of the most important messages I like to share at this time of year is to “Eat breakfast every day.” As kids start back to school they need to start each day with some nutritious food in their stomachs. It’s really brain food. Countless studies have shown that kids perform better in school, and are less irritable, when their day starts with breakfast.
There is no doubt about it: our bodies need to refuel after not eating for 10-12 hours. So why is it that breakfast is the meal most often skipped? The most common answers I hear are that “there isn’t time” or “my kids aren’t hungry in the morning.”
As you plan to start each day with breakfast, keep in mind the following tips. Breakfast does not have to be a big meal. Try to include something from the grain group as well as a fruit. Breakfast does not have to be traditional. Be creative; nutritious foods are healthy any time of the day. Last night’s leftovers can be reheated in a hurry. Peanut butter can be spread on a piece of whole grain toast and served with a glass of 100% fruit juice. Equal amounts of juice, milk and yogurt can be combined for a smoothie-like treat. Get your day off to a great start and be a breakfast eater!
And finally, if you live close enough to school can your children safely walk or bike to school? Research shows that starting your day with some physical activity (i.e. walking to school) encourages better concentration and behavior in the classroom. If your schedule allows it, do a trial run with your child; either walking or biking on a safe route to the front door of the school.
Here’s hoping your school year gets off to a great start!
Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District. Contact her at 620-793-1910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.