Your Kids’ Real Back-to-School Needs
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Your Kids’ Real Back-to-School Needs

Many local kids are headed back to school at the end of this month, which makes this a great time to think about what they need to be successful in the coming year. While they might want a new backpack or the cool brand of sneakers, there are other things that might make a greater impact in their health and success. Here are some top recommendations from the teams of clinical professionals at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

Healthy Food
“Fully fueled kids are happier and healthier,” says Registered Dietitian Rachel Rodney. She encourages families to think fresh. “Include fruits and vegetables at every meal.” According to the most recent recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fruits and vegetables should make up half the plate! “Concentrate on foods with fewer ingredients and those that you easily recognize,” Rodney says. “Visit the library for cookbooks that include tasty and healthy options you can try.”

A Full Water Bottle
If you aren’t already a water-drinking family, it
may be time to make the switch. “Beverages other than water contain a lot of extra sugar,” says Pediatrician Meghan Gunn, MD, of SVMC Pediatrics. “Even juice and sports drinks, which can seem healthy, contain a lot more sugar than most kids need.” If you don’t already have one, you can find reusable water bottles at thrift shops. You’ll save money and the environment when you fill it up, rather than buying a beverage.

Encouragement to Move
Movement and learning are closely associated among children and young adults. In fact,
a 2020 study linked higher levels of physical activity to improved academic performance. “It doesn’t have to be specialized or complicated,” says Michael Fredette, DPT, CSCS, Cert. DN, a physical therapist in the Outpatient Rehabilitation department at SVMC. “Visits to the local playground, playing catch, shooting baskets, or going for an after-dinner walk are great opportunities for movement, exploration, and learning.” 

Some Screen-Free Time
“Screen-free time is so beneficial to children,” says Jennie Moon, a child development specialist and the director of Children’s Integrated Services Early Intervention in Bennington. Set aside screen-free time before school; for a while after school to read, draw, or do homework; and at mealtimes. “Children who spend time away from screens develop important skills through play and socialization.”

“Just because the summer vacation ends doesn’t mean the sun takes a break,” says Lixia Ellis, PhD, MD, of SVMC Dermatology. “Apply an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen before your child leaves the house in the morning, even if it is cloudy.” The sunscreen will provide some protection during outdoor recess and reduce their lifetime risk of skin cancer.

Their Recommended Vaccines
“Vaccines are among the most important ways we protect our kids, families, and neighbors from contagious diseases,” says Gunn. “Talk to your child’s doctor about what immunizations they need, including the flu shot and the COVID vaccine.”

While we can’t protect our kids from all of the challenges they face, we can prepare them and give them some of the important tools they need. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and safe school year filled with fun, learning, and new accomplishments.


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