If the kids have enjoyed a summer of lie-ins, eating unhealthy food and spending time gaming or on social media, it's time for them – and you as well – to ditch the bad holiday habits, make a fresh start and begin the new term on a healthy note.
Just a few simple changes for the better can help work wonders boosting the whole family's wellness, from making healthier dietary choices like whipping up more wholesome brekkies or sneaking some veg into the pack lunch, to limiting computer time and encouraging your children to take part in more sociable extra-curricular activities.
Read on for handy tips on how you can help your kids stay as healthy as possible this academic year.
Old school habit: skipping breakfast or eating rubbish in the AM
New term rule: start the day with a wholesome breakfast
Make an effort if you can to give your kids a balanced wholesome breakfast every morning. “The saying 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' should not be taken lightly,” says Food Doctor nutritionist Salma S Khan. “Studies suggest children who eat breakfast perform better at school, and also behave better in contrast to those who don’t eat anything for breakfast.”
Swap white bread toast and sugar-laden cereal for healthier wholemeal bread and low-sugar bran cereals with added banana or berries. Try to include some brain-boosting protein such as poached or boiled eggs, low fat bio yoghurt or nuts, as well as the odd grilled tomato, slice of avocado or serving of mushrooms. Add a little excitement and make
Friday a fruit smoothie day.
Old school habit: junk food at lunchtime
New term rule: healthier packed lunches
If your kids take a packed lunch into school, the start of the new term is the perfect time to give that lunchbox a healthy makeover. Keep the crisps, chocolate, sweets and soft drinks to a minimum, swap white bread for brown and go easy on the butter and mayo in sandwiches. Fillings-wise, avoid fatty processed meats and stick to lean chicken breast or fish such as tuna or salmon. Stock up on prepped bags of baby carrots and cucumber, and serve them with healthy low fat hummus or bio yoghurt dip.
Old school habit: being chauffeur-driven to school door-to-door
New term rule: walk at least some of the way
You might want to roll your eyes at this rule, but if your school run involves very little walking, you'll be doing the kids' health as well as your own a massive favour by ditching the car, bus or train for at least part of the journey and hitting the pavement. If you live very far from the school, park a few roads away or get off before your stop and walk the rest of the way.
Yes, you may have to get out of bed a bit earlier, but it's definitely worth your while for the mental as well as physical benefits. A recent survey by medical tech firm Intelligent Health found that 80% of children who walked to school, as part of a trial, reported feeling less anxious and more able to concentrate in lessons.
Old school habit: going to bed too late
New term rule: don't stay up past bedtime
Getting enough shut-eye is crucial if you want your kids to get the most out of school, but according to a study by the Sleep Council, kids are going to bed later than ever, and as a result, two-thirds of children in the UK are chronically sleep-deprived.
You may have to be a bit strict, but it's best to take the tough love approach to make sure your kids go to bed at a suitable time. It's recommended for primary school kids to have nine to 11 hours of sleep per night, and eight to nine hours for secondary school pupils. If you have trouble getting the kids to settle down, think about imposing an hour cooling off period pre-bedtime when you switch off loud music, hectic console games and anything else that might be distracting.
Old school habit: spending hours gaming or on social media
New term rule: limit computer time and get sporty
Calling time on excessive computer use is the way forward this term. According to a recent report by Public Health England, “children who spend more time on computers, watching TV and playing video games tend to experience higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression.”
Instead, support their mental health and encourage your kids to take part in more sporty extra-curricular activities. Sit down and have a chat about what they'd really like to do after school in terms of exercise, whether they're into football, yoga or running, and make an effort to follow it through.
Old school habit: forgetting to plan school work and chores
New term rule: get organised and make to-do lists
Try to encourage your kids to get more organised and plan their work and chores effectively. If you've got the time, go over their schedule with them once a week, check that they have allocated enough time for homework and make sure they have everything they need, whether it's sports kit, specific text books or stationery. And if you can, double-check quickly each morning before you set off.
Old school habit: getting stressed and overwhelmed
New term rule: practice relaxation techniques
Managing stress should be a doddle now your youngsters are getting enough sleep, exercising more and organising their time and workload effectively – all proven anxiety-busters. But the pressures of school life can still get a bit much at times.
If your kids are extra stressed, go easy on them. Don't badger them to do their homework or chores and think about setting aside a chillout hour after school to help calm their nerves in which you can practice calm breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or even just crack jokes to make your kids giggle and melt their cares away.
Prepare for the new term with these back to school tips for parents
As summer comes to an end, you’ve got to start planning for your children’s return to school. Here are a few tips to help them make a smooth transition from holidays to homework.
Get back to you as the kids go back to school
As the summer holidays come to an end and the kids return to school, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to reward yourself for keeping them entertained during the break.