Photo illustration.

It won’t be long before kids head back to the classroom for the start of another school year. While you need to make sure your child has all the school supplies they need to succeed, it’s just as important to make sure they have a healthy school year.

Follow these nine tips from health experts to help your child stay healthy as they start the new school year:

  1. Visit your child’s primary care provider. A well-child check-up is a wonderful way to make sure your child’s school year gets off to a healthy start. It’s also an opportunity to meet sports physical requirements for your child, for kids who will be playing a sport.
  1. Don’t skip the shots. Before your child walks into the classroom, make sure their immunizations are up to date. And don’t forget about the flu. It is recommended that all school-age children get the flu vaccine unless they have an allergy to the vaccine or a health problem that will cause complications from the vaccine.
  1. Get sleep schedules back on track. Positive sleep health can help improve academic performance and reduce overall stress, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Start readjusting bedtimes several days out so children are hitting the pillow earlier. And encourage them to cut back on playing games and watching their favorite programs in the evening.
  1. Make an action plan to address any health-related conditions and share with your child’s school. If your child has a health-related condition, such as asthma or diabetes, plan how you will communicate this information with your child’s teacher and school.
  1. Talk with your child about their mental health. Let them know that this is a hard time for many young people, but they can talk to you and other adults if they need help. Make sure to know what resources are available for your child if they begin to struggle with their mental health once school starts. Talk with your child’s school as they may have resources available.
  1. Healthy food = good health. Most children consume almost half of their calories at school, which makes school a great place to practice healthy eating. But parents can encourage a healthy diet at home, too. Make sure your child is eating a mix of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and foods that are low in fat and rich in protein, such as fish, eggs and beans.
  1. Wash away the germs. Encourage your child to wash his or her hands often, at home and in the classroom. Whether it’s soap and water or hand sanitizer, clean hands go a long way in reducing the spread of germs and infectious diseases.
  1. Stay active. Experts recommend children move at least 60 minutes each day. Whether it’s a kickball game with classmates at recess, a family bike ride after school or baseball practice, it all counts.
  1. Parents: Take steps to support your own health. Set aside time for you to stay active, connect with people who support you, and practice self-care. Stay healthy and on track with adult vaccinations, including your COVID-19 vaccine. When you are fully vaccinated, you have a far lower risk of getting severely sick, being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19.

Meg Gildersleeve, pediatric nurse practitioner, sees patients at Aspirus Pediatrics in Wausau.