Back to School Tips for Smart, Healthy, and Happy Kids
by Dr. Cheryl Cooper, ND Getting back into the routine of school can be tough on kids and parents alike. Setting everyone up for an easy transition makes going back to school a fun and exciting time of year. Below are some tips and tricks to make it easier for everyone.
Sleep is essentialIt’s surprising to know how much sleep kids need to function optimally. Sleep allows kids’ bodies and minds to grow and thrive and when they aren't getting enough, it affects them in ways that are detrimental to their health on so many levels. According to the National Sleep Foundation school age, kids need an average of 8-12 hours of sleep every night to be healthy1. (See chart below) Not sleeping well or enough can impact kids energy, their ability to think and remember, and their emotional well-being. If your child isn’t sleeping well for any reason, this needs to be addressed early as it is likely to become a chronic problem that affects them for the rest of their lives. One of the most important aspects of sleep for kids (and adults) is routine. Getting to bed at a regular time every night helps their body to know that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Having bedtime rituals also really helps with the preparation for sleep. Having a bath, brushing teeth, putting on pyjamas are all good ways for kids to start winding down their day. I also recommend getting them to put away their "screens" an hour before bed. As the electromagnetic field is disruptive to the hormones, the body produces for relaxation and sleep2. While every child is slightly different regarding how much sleep they need, most require the following to be fully rested:
Immune SupportOne of the constant complaints that I deal with in the fall is kids getting sick when they head back to school. In addition to them being inside more, they also are exposed to more infectious germs that, unless their immune systems are healthy, will result in them getting sick. Once they are sick, their immune systems then become compromised setting them up for getting sick more often throughout the school year. One of the most important supplements to give kids before they start back to school is probiotics. A review of research on probiotics specific to immune health concludes that they have an immunomodulatory effect in the body meaning that they can have a direct effect on several immune response-related diseases including allergies, eczema, viral infections and potentiating the vaccination response3. Another way to provide excellent immune system support for kids is to give them medicinal mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Cordyceps, Lion's Mane and Shiitake have been used for millennia in Chinese Medicine to support the immune system and prevent illness. When given in proper doses, they can make all the difference for kids to stay healthy throughout the year. A bonus is that there is more research showing that they are also good for brain function and nervous system development4. They can be given to kids in a smoothie or mixed into yogurt or applesauce to make it easy for them to take. They don't even need to know that they’re there!
Brain PowerThe list of health benefits from Omega-3 fatty acids is long5 but, most importantly Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to the brain, and neurological development and most kids (and adults) aren’t getting enough. There are both animal and plant-based omega three fatty acids, and both have been shown to be beneficial for health. Some of the principal sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold water fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herring), walnuts, ground flax seeds and flax oil. Additionally, grass-fed meats, soy, cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts), spinach, watercress and herbs such as parsley and mint all include necessary vitamins, minerals, fibre as well as protein.
DietWhat kids eat has a direct impact on their ability to function. If kids are eating foods that are nutrient dense and healthy, they will have lots of energy and brain power to get through the demands of their day with ease. Alternately, if they are eating foods with poor nutrient density (sugar, fat and processed foods), they'll struggle to get through their days. An unhealthy diet, of course, will add to any other stress they may already have going on at school. One of the best ways to pack some super nutrients for their energy, brain and immune system function into your kids is to start them out with a smoothie in the morning. Here is one of my kids favourite smoothie recipes: Per person:
- 1/2 Frozen Banana (I peel the bananas before I freeze them)
- 1/2 tbsp. Organika's Vege-Pro
- 2 Pitted Dates
- One tablespoon of Nut Butter (Almond Butter or Peanut Butter or any other nut butter)
- One teaspoon of Greens Powder or ½ cup of Greens
- One teaspoon of Omega 3 Oil (Fish or Flax)
- One teaspoon Liquid Multivitamin
- 1 https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-babies-and-kids-need
- 2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4130204/
- 3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4006993/pdf/nihms-441845.pdf
- 4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24716157
- 5 http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-health-benefits-of-omega-3#section7