Saved By The Bell - Go Magazine Feb 2013


Saved By The BellWith the long summer a holiday almost a distant memory, it’s time to pack the troops up and send them back to school. Simone McClenaughan looks at how to survive the transition.

School isn’t just a place for children to learn – it presents a learning curve for their parents too. From what to eat, how much time they should be spending on the computer and how much rest they need, it can all be pretty overwhelming. Fear not, with a little revision, you too can get the perfect report card.


Health homework

Ahead of the start of a new school year, it is wise to book in the kids’ eye exams and dental check-ups. Eye tests can help determine if a child may need glasses or should be seated closer to the blackboard. Often trouble seeing equates to trouble learning. A visit to the dentist helps familiarise children with the importance of oral hygiene and can alert you for things to look out for between visits – such as wiggly teeth!


Another thing to be mindful of with the return to the classroom is the chance for kids to pick up bugs from other children. Reinforcing the importance of hand washing can help keep viruses at bay.


Just like an abundance of bugs, head lice can come on strong at school, especially in the summer. Educate children that they shouldn’t share hats, hair brushes or play with each other’s hair. Keeping long hair tied back or plaited can also help avoid nits.


For teenagers, a reminder about general hygiene won’t go astray. Although they’re likely to run from the conversation if you mention puberty, subtle mentions about the use of deodorant could help, as well as treating them to a shampoo, conditioner, body wash and skin care products just for them may help combat oily hair, body odour, sensitive skin or acne. Select natural brands such as Alchemy, Weleda, Mineral Energy and the Goatsmilk Company to be sure your children are avoiding artificial additives.


A full day at school and play can be tiring, so make sure your little ones get enough shut-eye. Primary school kids need 10-11 hours of sleep a night. While teenagers function best on 9-10 hours a night.


The lunchbox revolution

Little lunch and big lunch is one of the most highly anticipated parts of the school day for most kids, so it’s time to forget the old white bread and cheese sandwich for lunch and give them something to really look forward to.


One way of getting your children excited about their lunchbox is to involve them in the grocery shopping and making their own lunches.


Interesting food is another way of enticing them to eat their lunch and not swap it with a classmate. Think felafel and salad wraps, fruit skewers and plain popcorn. Kids’ lunches need to be loaded with nutritious food that gives them the staying power to last the school day and nurture their growing bodies. Making sure your child eats nutritious foods at school will also help them to concentrate and focus in class. During the summer, freeze yoghurt tubes or fruit boxes to keep lunchboxes cool and for a tasty, icy snack. For loads of great ideas pick up a copy of The Lunchbox Revolution by Mona Hecke, available at Go Vita stores.


According to the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, most children aren’t getting a sufficient amount of fruit and vegetables in their diet. Children up to the age of 11 need one piece of fruit a day. One-third of kids get this. Teens aged 12-18 need three pieces of fruit each day. Only one per cent of teens consume this amount.


It’s not any better when it comes to vegies. Four-to-seven year olds need two serves of legumes and vegies a day. Only 22 per cent get this. Eight-to-11 year olds need three serves and 12-18 year olds need four serves. Just five per cent are meeting these requirements.

With the bulk of children not getting adequate amounts of fruit and veg, it means they’re missing out on essential nutrients. As such, it pays to look into a supplement to help boost their digestive and immune systems and cognitive function such as a probiotic, multi and omega-3. Formulations specifically for children will provide these nutrients at the right dose for your children.

It’s also wise to reduce the amount of sugar and fats children are eating. Keeping hydrated is also crucial for children. Make drinking water fun by getting your child their own Cheeki stainless steel drink bottle. Insulated Cheeki bottles are a great idea as they keep the water cold and also don’t leave a drippy mess at the bottom of school bags! Best of all Cheeki bottles are BPA free, and you’ll be much happier knowing they are not drinking from plastic bottles!


While most schools are nut free, it never hurts to be safe. has a range of stickers, badges and jewellery that children with an allergy can affix to their lunchbox, backpack or wear.


Swap screen time for green time

The Australian guidelines for non-educational screen time (not homework or schoolwork) for children and adolescents is no more than two hours a day. Unfortunately the key findings from the Australia Government’s survey on the topic found that most children spent two-and-a-half hours in front of the television a day. Teenagers appear to be the worst offenders, spending four hours a day on the computer, laptop, tablet or television.

The problem with extended screen time is that it means that kids are sitting around and not getting the amount of exercise and physical playtime they need. The longer a child spends in front of a screen, the more likely they are to be overweight.


Ways to reduce screen time include:

  • Setting an alarm clock to monitor the duration of time spent on the computer or watching television.
  • Turn off the television at meal times.
  • Implement screen-free days.


The Australian National Physical Activity Guidelines for children specifies that kids need to spend at least one hour a day doing moderate to vigorous physical activity. This doesn’t mean propping them up on a treadmill and making them clock up an hour. It means getting them outside playing, riding a bike, running around or playing a sport such as dancing, tennis, netball or soccer. The emphasis on activity for kids is fun.


School sunsmarts

Australian schools can become part of the Cancer Council SunSmart School program, whereby students are encouraged to wear hats, sun safe clothes, apply 30SPF+ sunscreen and play in the shade. Ensuring your child is lathered up with sunscreen and wearing a hat before you leave the house can help reinforce the SunSmart message.


Stranger danger

It’s sad, but educating your children about stranger danger is an important part of the school year, particularly for kids who walk to and from school alone. No matter how basic it sounds, one of the most important messages to convey to a child as they start the new school year is about safety from strangers – and how they are never to talk to strangers, no matter how friendly they seem.


Now armed with plenty of advice to survive the first day – and indeed the entire year at school – you can be confident that you and your child are heading to the top of the class.

[bio] Simone McClenaughan is a freelance writer with a personal interest in health, wellness and lifestyle issues. She was formerly the features editor of Weight Watchers magazine. 


This article originally featured in Go Magazine Feb 2013 produced by Go Vita

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