Summer is winding down, which means that back-to-school season is just around the corner. This period of transition can be rigorous and even stressful on young children as they leave behind the flexibility of summertime and re-enter the structured routine of school, sports and clubs. It’s also chaotic for you, as parents ease back into busier schedules and hectic mornings.
With so much going on, it’s easy to forget about your healthy habits at home. Use these fun and simple ideas to get back to living your healthy lifestyle as a family, despite the long days, moody kids, and a never-ending to-do list.
Make Lunch Prep Easier
Hack: Swap their lunch box for a bento box
Prepping healthy lunches can be a time-consuming task. You have to make all the food, put it into separate bags and Tupperware, and then hope that you get the latter back at the end of the day. Bento boxes make lunch prep a little easier because they’re designed with various compartments, meant to hold different foods. Not to mention, kids love how fun they are:
“What I love about bento boxes is that it really helps me serve my kids a variety of new foods, and encourages them to try new things without getting overwhelmed by a big serving of it,” says Kimi Harris, mom from The Nourishing Gourmet.
Use bento boxes to keep kids excited about their healthy lunch, while making it easier for you to put together a well-rounded meal. Check out the Fit-Fresh Mult-Flex Bento Box if you don’t have one already.
Give them Space and Freedom for Playtime
Hack: Change homework time
Adequate playtime increases the emotional, mental, physiological and social well-being of children, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics. It teaches them how to interact and collaborate with peers, engage their creative imaginations and push through obstacles they encounter. These lessons are integral to maturity and success in adulthood.
One way to encourage more freedom for play is to set a time for it each day. For example, make homework a post-dinner task, and let your kid play immediately after school. This gives you a set time—think: 3pm to 5pm—for them to run outside, play pretend in their bedroom, or build castles with a cardboard box. You can be sure they get plenty of free playtime without having to exert any energy thinking about it.
Cook Less, Eat Healthy
Hack: Make protein smoothies
Dinner can be a hassle on weeknights thanks to conflicting schedules and after school activities. Relieve some of the pressure by making something that’s quick and easy with minimal clean up required: protein smoothies. The kids will be excited at the prospect of drinking chocolate or vanilla smoothies for dinner, and you won’t have to stress about preparing an entire meal.
The best part is that smoothies aren’t just a time-saver—with the right ingredients, they’re also packed with the essential nutrients that children need for healthy development. You can even sneak in foods they might normally avoid eating, like spinach, carrots, kale, beets or celery.
If you’re new to making protein smoothies—especially for kids—check out the following resources. You’ll find tips for choosing protein powder, along with information about how much protein children need to consume and which smoothie recipes are the easiest, healthiest and most crowd-pleasing to enjoy together as a family.
Limit Distractions from Gadgets and Screens
Hack: Literally limit screen time
In the United States alone, the prevalence of obesity in kids, ages 19 and under has escalated by 182 percent, according to the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. This is often be attributed to the sedentary habits related to technology use, especially in children.
This habit can also decrease their attention spans and comprehension skills and vocabulary skills, which hurts their academic performance too. While it’s ideal to restrict your kid’s access to televisions, smartphones, tablets, computers, and video games to a maximum of two hours daily, as recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics, it can be hard to enforce.
Instead of fighting about it, download a screen limit app that tracks how long the device has been used and blocks access once the allotted time is exceeded.
Stick to a Bedtime for School Nights
Hack: Use a sleep cue
Mornings start early during the school year, and kids need to be rested so they can function throughout the school day. In fact, kids between the ages of 6 and 13 require 9 to 11 hours of sleep on average, estimates The National Sleep Foundation.
Research also indicates that kids whose parents enforce a regular bedtime exhibit higher cognitive flexibility, problem-solving abilities, concentration, working memory and educational preparedness than kids without a bedtime routine, as published in the BMC Public Health Journal.
Still, bedtime is a headache for every one when kids don’t want to follow the rules. Make this easier to manage by using a “bedtime cue.” Amanda Kondology, Care.com contributor, suggests:
“Select a few ‘bedtime’ songs and play them at consistent times to serve as a bedtime cue. You child will learn to equate certain songs with sleepy time and will fall asleep faster as a result.”
Make Your Life Easier With Fall Parenting Hacks
Back-to-school season is a hectic period of time for the entire family, and health shouldn’t fall to the wayside. With the chaos of science project deadlines, spelling tests, extracurricular activities, parent-teacher conferences and other school-year stressors, these hacks will help your kids thrive and stay healthy, no matter how busy life gets.