Back to School Tips
Specialists at Schneider Children’s Medical Center offer tips to parents in anticipation of the new academic year: how to readjust children’s habits to a new daily routine, how to improve the learning experience at school, instructing them about road safety and what foods are best to take to school.
Deganit Ben-Nissan, chief psychologist in the Institute for Child Development and Rehabilitation at Schneider Children’s, notes that many children change their daily habits and sleep routines during the summer vacation, going to sleep late and arising late. Towards the end of vacation, the child should gradually return to normal sleeping hours. Activities such as purchasing equipment and organizing the schoolbag help the child to process the transition from holiday to study, while preparing him emotionally for the return to school. Preparations for school should be done jointly signaling the end of vacation and back to school. Children should also be encouraged to express their emotions about the return to the school framework.
Hila Argentrau, Head of the Learning Disabilities Clinic in the Psychological Medicine Department, stated that the child’s sense of identity with the school is significant for normal learning and better coping with difficulties, particularly learning difficulties. It is important to pay attention to the child’s school experiences, his mood, his social framework and whether there are any teachers with him he feels comfortable and admires. Should one of those points be negative, the school should be contacted and an effort made to improve the situation and the child’s sense of identity with the school. Early intervention as close as possible to the beginning of the year can prevent more complex difficulties and significantly improve the learning experience and capability of the child.
Prof. Yehezkel Waisman, Director of the Emergency Medicine Department at Schneider Children’s, notes that many children are injured on their way to and from school. Therefore, children under the age of 9 must be accompanied when crossing the road and ensure they stop at the edge of the sidewalk, look properly in both directions before crossing and only then cross the road. Children should also be instructed not to cross the road between parked cars or behind a bus, and not to play with a ball near the street. Schoolbags should not be too heavy and not weigh more than 15% of the child’s weight. During the first weeks of school, special care must be taken to ensure that the child is well-protected from the sun, and drinks enough water to prevent dehydration.
Dafna Ziv Busani, a dietician in the Nutrition and Dietary Unit at Schneider Children’s, recommends paying attention to nutrition in anticipation of the return to school:
Breakfast is an important and essential meal for children, which improves their ability to concentrate and promotes greater alertness throughout the school day. It is best to eat a sandwich or bowl of non-sweetened breakfast cereal with milk. When in a hurry, a bag with sliced fruit and yoghurt can be eaten on the way.
It is preferable for children to eat breakfast and a 10 o'clock snack prepared at home than getting them into the habit of buying something.
It is highly recommended to prepare a “sandwich schedule” for each day of the week together with the child to pre-determine what kind of sandwich the child will eat at school each day. Once a week the sandwich could have a sweet filling like chocolate, jam or halva spread, while fillings for other days should be light yellow cheese, white or cottage cheese or hummus.
Children should get into the habit of having a green vegetable or fruit with the sandwich which can be sliced and put in a separate container or placed between lettuce leaves so as not to dampen the sandwich.
Attention must be paid to drinking water throughout the school day. Drinking is essential as water is an important component of our bodies (more than half). Water quenches thirst, is healthier for teeth, and contributes to children’s level of alertness.
Children should eat lunch at the table and not opposite the TV or computer. Meals should include a protein such as meatballs, schnitzel, fish patties or a soy meat substitute for vegetarians (the Ministry of Health recommends no more than three portions per week). For children who prefer a vegetarian menu, meals can contain legumes such as hummus, beans, lentils and chickpeas together with grains such as rice and corn. Quinoa could also be added as part of the daily portion of grains. Corn patties are not protein substitutes and meals should comprise cooked vegetables or a green salad with a carbohydrate such as pasta or potato.
After-school activities should include sport such as basketball or gymnastics. Physical exercise is important from the standpoint of both health and self-confidence and increases the child’s sense of accomplishment.