Back to school

As always, Christmas has come and gone in a blur and the summer holidays have whizzed by – before we know it, the kids are back at school. What can you do to help make it easier for everyone?

Don’t let them get overtired

Some kids can’t wait for school to begin again, others are less enthusiastic. However don’t forget to start the year off well by ensuring that your children don’t get over-tired in those first few weeks back. It’s still hot at night, they are probably still in summer holiday mode and with the lighter evenings it’s often harder to get them into bed. But they will need extra sleep now they are back at school and concentrating, so try and be organised, so they can get back into a regular bedtime routine. Their brains do a lot of growing while they are sleeping.

Organise gear for after-school activities

If your children have after-school activities, it’s a very handy idea to either have a selection of bags with the appropriate gear in it so your child can just grab the bag and go. Or, you could get a big box for the garage into which all their gear is put and your children can select from it what they need for their after-school activity that day. This works well for togs and towels, sports shoes and uniforms, as well as sports equipment. For things that need washing after use, they just get put back in the box ready for the next time (either by you or your child could be responsible for that too), once they have been laundered. There is a great selection of customised bags around specifically for your child, to encourage independence in sorting out their own gear and making it easy for them to get their things organised for their activities.

Ways to minimise the morning chaos:

  • lists of things-to-do for the kids
  • breakfast and lunch options

   decided in advance

  • showers/baths the night before
  • uniforms on the end of the bed
  • school bags packed
  • after-school gear sorted
  • have a no-shouting policy!

Want to get more involved with the school/kindy this year?

Here’s what you could do:

  • offer to do parent help
  • offer to do any laminating or photocopying for the teacher/s
  • join the committee or Parents Association
  • join the Board of Trustees
  • help with any fundraisers
  • see if they need any help in the Library

Is your child not excited about starting back at school?

  • Ease kids in. It’s not necessarily the best idea to start off with too much of a bang and expect them to come home and do homework and tuition in the first week.
  • They might have ‘new teacher blues’. In this case, listen to your child and reassure them that they will get used to their new teacher and the new ways of doing things in the classroom. Remind them that everyone else is in the same position as them.
  • If they have been separated from their friends, make an effort to invite those kids over for an after-school play date, or encourage your child to play with his old friends at lunchtime. Remind your child also that this year will be a good opportunity to make new friends – you can never have too many.
  • Role-model a positive attitude about school and schoolwork. Show them that school is an inevitable but exciting part of growing up and that learning is fun. If you have an issue with their teacher, don’t let your child know about it until you’ve had a chance to discuss it with the teacher. If you seem happy with their teacher, they are more likely to feel better about them too.

Get quality that lasts

It’s also wise to ensure you have the right products for your child. In many cases, it’s important both for their development and for the longevity of a product. For example, in the long run, it works out much better to invest in a quality pair of shoes for your child at the beginning of winter and have them last, rather than buying three cheaper pairs that only last a very short time. Incentivise your children ‘not’ to lose their gear. Hopefully this will have them rifling through lost property - not you!

There are some things you just can’t compromise on for your child’s development. Shoes should be both comfortable and fitted correctly, as it’s essential for optimum muscle and bone formation (particularly the spinal column). A level pelvis and straight spine depend upon healthy feet throughout our entire lives, beginning in infancy.

School bags are another thing that should be purchased with care. Children’s and teen’s backs are particularly vulnerable and carrying heavy belongings (particularly as they get older) requires a sturdy, well-designed bag, designed to distribute weight evenly across the back, and not putting undue strain on shoulders or neck muscles.

If they have been separated from their friends, make an effort to invite those kids over for an after-school play date , or encourage your child to play with his old friends at lunchtime.

Hydrate the brain

Without adequate hydration at school, a child is at risk of getting headaches, loss of concentration and digestive problems. Dehydration has also been proven to reduce concentration and mental performance, as well as affecting behaviour. Therefore it’s essential, particularly in these summer months, to get your child into some good water drinking habits. Make sure they have a big drink of water before they leave home for the day, as well as first thing once they are home. They should be having between 6-10 cups per day (depending on body weight).

Send them off to school with a drink bottle and ask their teacher if they would consider allowing a ‘drink bottle’ policy in the classroom. This is where drink bottles are kept in the classroom (often at the back of the room) andchildren are allowed (and reminded) to drink regularly from them throughout the school day. Consider the fact that if your child doesn’t drink from their drink bottle or the water fountain at all throughout the school day, they would be without any hydration for over six hours! That’s way too long. Remember also that by the time you actually feel thirsty, your body is already partially dehydrated.

Official opinion in New Zealand is divided as to the safety or otherwise of the common plastic drink bottle, but savvy consumers both overseas and here are leaning towards the very eco-friendly and super-safe, non-leaching stainless steel drink bottles that are recently available, or towards BPA-free plastic bottles. There are more and more to choose from these days.

lunchbox inspiration

As weeks and weeks of school lunches hang over us at the start of the school term, it’s easy to turn to tried and true favourites and easy spreads. But with a little effort and a bit of inspiration, you can make your kid’s lunches less monotonous for you and a lot more exciting for them. Who knows, they might even come home with empty lunchboxes. Now wouldn’t that be a miracle?

Lunchbox fillers

Rather than one big sandwich and a whole piece of fruit, try tempting your child with lots of small packages of different things. Cut sandwiches into smaller portions, cut up fruit and wrap them individually to prevent browning or try mini-containers of grapes (frozen are nice), melon cubes, raisins or cranberries, for example.

  • Sushi is super-easy to make these days and makes great finger food in a lunchbox. Just purchase a plastic sushi maker from the local Asian grocery shop and pack the cooked rice into it, along with a filling and then simply wrap the seaweed around the ready-made roll.
  • Dried fruit and fruit bars are a great alternative to soggy or bruised fresh fruit or high-fat, high-sugar, highly processed muesli bars. You can also purchase dried veggie bars and fibre fruit bars, as a tasty way to get added fibre and vitamins into your child’s diet.
  • Fruit can also come in other guises such as fruit purees or fruit in jelly. You can even freeze the fruit puree which can then defrost throughout the morning, leaving it cold but just right to eat at lunchtime. There are also pure fruit sorbets available in the tinned fruit section of the supermarket that can also be frozen and eaten later.
  • Cut sandwiches into interesting shapes using a cookie cutter or try the new Sandwich Pie cutter to keep bigger fillings inside the sandwich.
  • Make mini foods such as mini muffins, mini quiches, mini cheese and veg tartlets, and meatballs.
  • Cold cooked rice, tossed with chopped celery, sultanas, orange segments, capsicum and some French dressing makes a nice change from sandwiches.
  • Use wraps or pita bread filled with grated salad ingredients as a change from your usual sandwich bread. Or spread a little vegemite or pizza sauce on a pita bread with some mozzarella cheese and put under the grill to melt.
  • Create a triple-decker effect using brown and white bread and fill with ham, cream cheese and lettuce. Slice into fingers and pack on their sides so your child can see
    the layers.
  • Make sliced bread into ‘rolls’ by removing crusts and flattening slightly. Use a thin spread like vegemite or cream cheese and ham and roll up. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, refrigerate until chilled, then slice into rounds about 1cm thick.
  • Make tasty salads from cold noodles or pasta – just add bite-size bits of any leftover vegetables from last night’s dinner.
  • Mix chopped leftover cooked potatoes with mayonnaise, spoon into a lettuce leaf with chopped hard-boiled egg, tomato and cress.
  • Cut up carrot sticks, celery, red pepper and serve with hummus, pita bread and crackers.
  • Serve cubes of mild cheese with a small bowl of chopped fruit, or even pickled onions if your child has a taste for them.

School children need:

  • at least three servings of vegetables and two of fruit per day
  • at least five servings of breads and cereals per day (e.g., one medium slice of bread, one roll, one cup of pasta)
  • at least one serving of lean meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, dried beans, peas and legumes (protein) per day (e.g., one egg, two slices of cooked meat, two chicken drumsticks)
  • at least two or three servings of dairy products per day (e.g., two slices of cheese, one pottle of yogurt)

Ideas:

  • great protein - frozen yogurt, nuts, cheese and bacon scones, eggs, tinned tuna, cheese slices, hummus
  • great fruit and vegetables - dried fruit or leathers, frozen fruit puree, fresh pieces cut and kept cool, tubs of preserved fruit, frozen grapes, melon cubes, small salads, carrot sticks, celery and cottage cheese sticks
  • great carb ideas - sushi, sammies, pasta, potato kebabs, crackers, rice salad, wraps, toasted muffins, crumpets, rice cakes, fruit bread, scones. Remember, wholemeal and wholegrains are best for releasing energy slowly throughout the day and keeping your child feeling fuller for longer.
  • Rather than one big sandwich and a whole piece of fruit, try tempting your child with lots of small packages of different things.
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