“Ding ding ding” School’s in. Sigh. Back to grind for many of us. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas holiday with loads of fun, laughter, food and whatever else that floats your boats. For some of us, this time of year is a blessing, having just had 6-8 weeks of entertaining kids day in and day out- school (in whatever form that takes) provides much needed rest for weary parental brains.

However, before your brains switch from “holiday activities co-ordinator” mode to “work/no children around-zone out” mode, there are a few prerequisites we all need to complete. To make it through their school/preschool/daycare day happily and healthily our kids need a few vital things. Some of the most important of these are:

  • A big, fat nutrition packed breakfast. Your children’s bodies have just been in sleep mode for a number of hours and breakfast is the key to rebooting their bodies and brains. I am not going to rabbit on about what exactly to feed them, but ensuring that the most important meal is the best it can be within your family’s knowledge and budget will ensure that the rest of their day will be awesome (as far as their brain’s concerned, that is…). Breakfast helps kids concentrate; stops them over indulging in less desirable foods; and it helps them learn. Follow with four more meals through the day and this is a great recipe for brain development and learning. Yay for food!!
  • Just because the summer holidays are over, it doesn’t mean that the sun is no longer shining- despite what you may think about your job, February can give us some of the longest and hottest sunshine hours of the year so don’t forget the good old “slip, slop, slap and wrap”. Many educational facilities have a “hat policy” which makes us nurse-types smile. This means a child is only allowed outside if they have a hat on….so be kind- let your kids get some play-time outdoors; send them to school with a hat! “What about teenagers!?!” I hear you ask…If your teenager is too cool to wear a hat (and who can blame them? No-one likes hat hair!), try encouraging them to use a moisturizer that has sunblock in it (preferably SPF30) and have them take sunscreen with them to reapply and just hope that they be sun-sensible.
  • Make sure your kids get plenty of fluids throughout their busy day. The best (and cheapest) choice is water. Dehydration is an attention-span killer! Avoid juice and soft drinks as these are just loaded with sugar and are detrimental to good oral hygiene (they decay teeth). Coffee and tea both contain caffeine which is a stimulant likely to cause children to “bounce off walls” and it inhibits the body’s ability to absorb iron, which reduces a person’s ability to concentrate and can cause lethargy. Think: Hyperactive child who can’t concentrate and then can’t stay awake….Be kind to your kids’ teachers; avoid these drinks! If your teen is starting to indulge in this purely heavenly adult mood-boosting substance, share with them your new found knowledge of its pitfalls and leave it at that.
  • Lastly, have a think about how your kids are getting to and from their place of learning. Are there “walking buses” in your urban area? If so- great, exercise and safety in numbers!! If not, review road safety messages with your kids and ensure they are safe walking/cycling/catching the bus to and from school. If your sixteen year old passed his or her driving test during the holidays, they are likely hanging out to “arrive in style”. I recall this as being very important when I was in college! It raised me untold levels in the popularity stakes and I am sure the effect of cars is the same at schools even ten years on! Discuss your expectations around taking a car to school with your novice driver. Know the law: Teens on their restricted are NOT allowed passengers unless one of them has a full driver’s license and has held it for two years…unlikely at school. Encourage them to stay strong and adhere to the law. Their friends WILL pressure them into lunchtime jaunts to the local drive-through; help them overcome this pressure by setting boundaries, rules and consequences. Start now with safe driving messages and hope they stick forever.

That is probably enough to think about for your impending school year. If you’re worried about your own health and safety….you too can follow these few simple guidelines… but you can, of course, take passengers in your car and you may drink coffee. Best wishes, good luck and Happy New Year.

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Kate Anderson is a trained Well-Child Nurse with two little people of her own. She also runs Stroll Smart NZ and loves getting out and about with her buggy.

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