After a long summer of sleeping in, taking dips in the pool, and staying up past bedtime, getting back into the school schedule can be rough on children of all ages. Help them along with these healthy practices that can energize the mind and body, as well as improve their performance and mood throughout the day.

Give Children Brain-Boosting Foods

child with back to school bluesA child’s brain grows and makes connections at an incredible rate, but children also become fatigued and overstimulated much more quickly. Studies show that specific foods have a significant impact on brain function and development. Here are a few things to feed your children to support that cerebrum during long school days:

  • Salmon and other fatty fish contain high levels of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.
  • Eggs (including the yolk) are not only a great source of protein; they contain choline, which stimulates memory retention.
  • Nuts and nut butters provide antioxidants, folate, and thiamine, all of which support brain health.
  • Whole grains – especially oats – are good for the body in general, and the B-vitamins and minerals they contain nourish the nervous system.
  • Berries of every shape and color contain natural glucose and large quantities of antioxidants – energy-boosting vitamins that can improve motor control and cognition.
  • Beans contain a wide variety of brain-promoting nutrients, including B-vitamins, which are essential to the creation of neurons and neurotransmitters.
  • Brightly colored and leafy green vegetables are essential to keeping the brain energized, and a variety of vegetables can also help the brain to better cope with stress and fatigue.

Healthy Sleep Habits

Another momentous factor in that weekly schedule is sleep. Preschool age children need a minimum of 10 hours of sleep while some young children may function better with a full 12 hours of sleep each night. Children between 6 and 12 years perform better with 10-11 hours of sleep, while teenagers also require 9-10 hours of sleep.

Sleep affects much more than a child’s energy levels. Surveys indicate that children who do not sleep enough perform more poorly in school,  get sick more often, and just don’t feel as good.

To find out exactly how much sleep your child requires, you can do an experiment. During a school vacation, put your child to bed early 5 nights in a row. Record the moment they go to sleep and allow them to sleep peacefully until they wake up on their own. Record their waking times as well. The amount of time the child sleeps on the 4th and 5th day should demonstrate their optimal sleep requirement, as long as they woke up on their own without external interference. Make the necessary adjustments to the child’s schedule to support their optimal sleep requirement.

Playing Outside

Spending time outside and indulging in free play activities are vital to learning and development. Children who spend more time outdoors – both while at school and at home – are better able to learn, concentrate, absorb information, and cope with challenges. Many European schools recognize this fact and incorporate plenty of outdoor playtime and organized outdoor activities as part of the everyday curriculum. The results are spectacular, and students from such schools are showing great success in both tests scores and physical performance.

Even if your child does not spend much time outdoors during school hours, you can bring some fresh air into their daily routine at home. Here are a few ways to get those little ones outside:

  • Incorporate an evening family walk or jog into the daily routine.
  • Organize weekly cookouts.
  • Plan outdoor projects to carry out with your children, such as constructing a treehouse or backyard fire pit.
  • Take long family bike rides.
  • Sign the kids up for extracurricular activities that take place outdoors.
  • Make an effort to visit a local park or playground several times per week.
  • For everyday indoor play activities – such as playing with play-doh, drawing, or building with Legos – take them out into the yard for a change of scenery.

By following some of the tips and tricks above, we hope your family can beat those back-to-school blues. You can also read more about maintaining a safe and healthy household on the Living Clean blog: