Having a Healthy School Year from Start to Finish

Tips for parents on how to kick off a healthy school year

Now your child is ready to have an awesome school year and they have everything they need to be successful, right? Not so fast!  Yes, those items are necessary and useful tools for our school-bound children, however we need to look beyond clothes and supplies to get them properly prepared for a great start.

As parents and caregivers we must ensure that our children begin the day with a nutritious and delicious breakfast. Whether you prepare breakfast for them at home or your kids eat at school, parents and caregivers should have daily conversations with children about the importance of eating a healthy breakfast (“Benefits of Breakfast,” n.d.) Making sure our little ones have access to healthy fruits and vegetables is crucial. While the studies are preliminary, researchers are hopeful that fruits and vegetables may play an important role in preventing the long-term effects of oxidative stress on brain function. At home, you can involve your youngster in making the grocery list for the public market AND you might let them help you shop. In school, be sure to check the school menu, and ask the food service office about options. Be sure to mention allergies to your school administrators at the beginning of the school year. As a parent or caregiver, you have a voice and YOU are the one best suited to advocate for your child, so exercise that opportunity!

Let’s get moving!

Increased physical activity leads to better health and better learning. In fact, experts recommend 60 minutes of physical activity throughout the day (Castelli et al., 2015). 

Walking or biking to school is a great way to fit exercise into your child’s daily schedule? Even if you don’t live nearby your child’s school, there are things you can do to give your kids the opportunity to experience getting to school with their own two feet. Talk to other parents and your school leaders about organizing walk and bike to school days. Does your school have a walking club that your kids can join in?

Getting active throughout the school day can help our kids stay ready to learn. Find out if your child’s teacher incorporates physical activity in to lesson time and make sure your children are also breaking for recess EVERY day. Did you know that the Rochester City School District has a policy that mandates that every child must receive at least 20 minutes of recess every day? Is your child having recess daily? Be sure to ask this question and if recess is not being provided, ask why and advocate for your child to have daily recess!

Get Involved!

Active and engaged parents are the key to successful schools (Dervarics & O’Brien, 2011). If you are new to your building or you haven’t been exposed to parent groups before, know that there are opportunities available to help you become familiar with your child’s school. Parent Teacher Associations, Parent Teacher Organizations, and other parent-led groups are a great way to make sure your child’s school is putting health first.  In our community, parent groups across the city have implemented Healthy Fundraising policies for their child’s school and are finding creative ways to have healthier schools. Consider replacing ice cream socials with fruit smoothie socials, and make sure every family event has a physical activity built in for kids and families to get moving. Parents everywhere are standing up, organizing and taking action to make theirs child’s school healthier. You can too!

Be the Change You Want to See!

Modeling healthy behavior is key to creating healthy schools. The Rochester City School District’s Wellness Task Force, along with parent groups and school wellness teams are working to ensure that adults are practicing what schools are “preaching.” If you notice something in your child’s school that doesn’t seem right, speak up. Is junk food being sold or given to your children at school? Are kids exposed to unhealthy marketing? Currently, district policy limits what items can be sold in vending machines at schools as well as what hours vending machines can be available to students to ensure that they are eating foods that fuel their brain during the day.

Parents play a crucial role in how healthy their child’s school building is. When that first day of school arrives and you send your child off on the bus, out the door or take them to school, be sure to take a second to think about the importance of a healthy school year and imagine how you could be a part of the solution. Have a great year!

To learn more on how you can make your school healthier contact Alicia Evans, Healthy Schools Project Coordinator at alicia.evans@commongroundhealth.org or 585.224.3172

To learn more on how you can get involved at your school contact Erick Stephens, Parent Engagement Specialist at erick.stephens@commongroundhealth.org or 585.224.3112 

“Benefits of Breakfast.” USDA.

Castelli, D., Glowacki, E., Barcelona, J., Calvert, H., & Hwang, J. (2015, January). Active education: growing evidence on physical activity and academic performance. Active Living Research. Retrieved from http://activelivingresearch.org/sites/default/files/ALR_Brief_ActiveEducation_Jan2015.pdf

Dervarics, C. & O'Brien, E. (2011, August 30). Back to school: how parent involvement affects student achievement (full report). Center for Public Education.