Back-to-School Health Tips for Portland Kids

Before you know it, your kiddos will be heading back to school!

It’s been a great (and beautiful!) summer here in the Portland area, but fall is just around the corner. It’s time to prepare your family for the back-to-school routine.

We want to help you start things off on a good note. Our pediatricians have some tips to help your family transition from the pool to the classroom, ensuring your little scholars stay healthy all year long!

1. Ensure Immunizations are Up-to-Date

In Oregon, children must be immunized against 11 vaccine-preventable diseases. Nearly every facility providing care for a child outside of the home requires enrolled children to have these immunizations or provide a non-medical exemption. This includes:

Public and private schoolsPreschoolsChildcare facilitiesHead Start programs

Required doses of each vaccine vary by your child’s age and how long ago they were vaccinated. Before the year starts, check with your child’s school, childcare facility, or us — your pediatricians — to ensure your kiddo is up-to-date on vaccines and meets school requirements.

If you would like to learn more about the science behind the vaccines your child needs to stay healthy, please attend one of our free community workshops with Dr. Ryan Hassan, where you can have all of your questions answered in a relaxed, comfortable setting! Check our homepage banner for upcoming vaccine workshop dates.

2. Schedule Back-to-School Checkups & Exams

The beginning of the school year is a popular time to get your little ones to the pediatrician for their regular wellness visit. These visits should happen at least once a year and many parents find scheduling it right before school is a natural fit.

These wellness exams include a number of important checkups:

Taking physical measurements (height and weight)Behavioral assessmentsBlood and/or urine testsVision and hearing screensNecessary immunization boosters

Well Child Visits are the best opportunity to establish an ongoing relationship with your child’s pediatrician and share any questions or concerns you have about their health. There are a few health factors you may want to discuss:

Nutrition tips for the school yearHow to handle classroom behavioral issuesHow to lessen emotional stress during the school yearHow much exercise your child needsTips for helping your child avoid getting sick during the school yearAny risk factors for the sports programs or after-school activities you child is enrolled in

You can schedule well-child appointments during the weekday, evenings, or even during the weekend — we want to fit your family’s schedule!

3. Encourage More Reading & Less Screen Time

Long days filled with play dates, outdoor activities, and extra screen time are normal during the summer, but transitioning from a carefree lifestyle into a more studious mindset can be tough for little ones.

Among the most difficult things for kids to give up are screens and devices. We get it!  It’s way more fun to play video games than read a textbook. Help ease them into school life by encouraging more reading and a little less screen time.

You might take your kids to the library, start reading a book that fits your child’s interests together as a family, or simply put some strict limits on how often they can be on the computer or watching TV. Choose an option that fits best with your parenting approach, but make fewer screens and more books the end goal.

4. Transition to School-Year Bedtimes

If your child is used to staying up late every night, sleeping in and taking naps, it will be tough to switch cold-turkey to the school-year schedule. 

The week before school starts, transition into your school-year bedtime and wake up schedule. Working through any pushback on this new schedule and getting your kids back into the routine will be much easier when you aren’t racing the morning bell.

Remember: Your child should be well-rested before every day of school. Make getting enough sleep a priority throughout the school year — for everyone in the family! 

Children who get an appropriate amount of sleep each night are at lower risk for attention and behavior problems at school, as well as chronic diseases in adulthood. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently published the following guidelines:

Preschoolers aged 3-5 years should get 11 to 13 hours of sleep per nightChildren 6-12 years should get 9-11 hours per nightAdolescents 13-18 years should get 8 to 10 hours per night.

5. Make a Plan for Healthy Lunches and After-School Snacks

It’s important to help your kids develop healthy habits, and nutrition and their relationship with food is a big part of that!

If you’ll be packing lunches for your child, take some time to meal plan. You want to find a balance between meals that are nutritious, easy to prepare, and yummy. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to get a better idea of how much protein, carbs, fiber, and other nutrients your child should be eating every day.

You should also plan for after-school snacks. 

There are nearly limitless ideas online for easy-to-prepare lunches and after-school snacks. Here are a few of our favorite choices:

Turkey and cheese roll-upHummus and pita with tomatoes and cucumbersTuna sandwich with peanut butter and celeryCheese quesadillas with guacamole and salsaAlmond butter and jelly and string cheeseHard-boiled eggs, carrots and ranch dipEgg salad sandwichesPeanut Butter and banana roll-upPesto pasta salad and raspberriesPretzels, apples, veggies with ranch dip, and a granola bar

A well-balanced diet will set your child up for a successful school year by allowing them to focus and perform their best.

6. Start Thinking About After-school Activities 

How will you keep your child active this school year? It can be easy to fall into a routine where the kiddos come home and spend the rest of the day sitting inside — playing on their devices and working on homework. 

Aim for at least an hour of active time after school. Whether it’s a school sport, city league, youth club, or just playing outside (the good weather won’t last for long!). Children who get more physical activity have a reduced risk for chronic disease in adulthood. Especially during the winter months when kids have a lot more pent-up energy, having a plan for keeping your kids active is good for the whole family!

7. Don’t Forget About Your Own Health 

Through it all, don’t neglect your own health and wellbeing. When you’re feeling good, you’ll be better equipped to care for your kids. Make sure you’re visiting your doctor, going to the dentist, getting enough exercise, eating well, and getting sleep! 

If you feel like you need more support, let us know! We’ll do our best to make sure you have the support and resources that you need.

We Are On Your Side

We’re parents ourselves — we know how challenging it can be to get the family back into the school year routine. 

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s physical, mental, or emotional health as they head into the school year, let us know. We’ll get your child scheduled for an appointment and do our best to ensure your kids start the school year off on the right foot.

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