It’s been a great summer, but I suspect parents around the country will be breathing a huge sigh of relief as the new term starts. It’s not that we don’t love the time with our kids but trying to keep them entertained, fed, watered and taxied around at the same time as holding down a job, managing the house or whatever else, can be a strain. Plus, the later bed-times and lack of routine over the summer doesn’t always bring out the best in them.
But with the new term comes the opportunity to set a few new goals that will make life happier, healthier and easier for us all. Here are my top 3 tips….
1. Get a proper bedtime routine in place.
There’s no question – a decent night’s sleep is essential for kids (and us!). It helps them process and remember all they have learnt during the day. And it keeps them alert enough to learn again the next day. Plus, it makes us all less grumpy so we can cope with the added stress that the term invariably brings.
Work out how much sleep they need – usually around 9-11 hours – and choose a bedtime that means they achieve it. Set a routine that helps them get off to sleep and keep to it, as regular routine sets the body clock. I suggest no screens for at least an hour before, a bath or a book instead to help them unwind, a cool room (around 16-18 degrees centigrade) but a comfy bed, ban phones or TVs in bedroom and avoid caffeine(coke / energy drinks) during the day. It may take some enforcing but it will pay dividends.
2. Give them a good breakfast
Sugary cereal and fruit juice is on the breakfast table of families all over the country but leads to a rapid rise in blood sugar followed by an energy slump mid-morning as the sugar level drops. A trip to the tuck shop for a few sweets soon solves that – but the cycle then continues.
Instead, give them protein and slow burn carbohydrates. Try peanut butter or scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast, porridge with banana, or Greek yoghurt with nuts and berries. That will keep their energy up until lunchtime and be much better for their health.
3. Get some fresh air and exercise
Children should be doing an hour of decent activity a day to keep healthy and build strong bones for the future. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always take priority on many schools’ academically focused schedule. It should, because exercise helps clear the mind and ensures a good night’s sleep. And that means kids perform better anyway.
If the school isn’t doing enough, try to build in a walk to school. Or maybe you could cycle. Or get outside with a ball before it gets dark. And make the time for plenty of outdoors family activity over the weekend. It gets them away from screens, allows time to talk through any worries, and keeps you fit too.