Kindergarten prep: Nine steps for a healthy start

So, your little one is headed to kindergarten! For parents and kids alike, this new chapter in life can be accompanied by a mixed bag of emotions including excitement and nervousness.
Mom kneeling on sidewalk with daughter

Making sure your child starts the year off right will set a solid foundation for their rest of the school year, helping them to put their best foot forward as they meet new friends and learn new things.

Getting prepared for their first day can be stressful, so we’ve put together nine steps for a healthy start to kindergarten:

Sleep

Good sleep habits are important for children as they get ready to learn. Preschoolers who are no longer taking naps may need up to 12 hours of sleep to get them through the day.

A healthy bedtime routine should include:

  • A regular bedtime
  • A quiet, relaxed period before bed like reading or listening to quiet music to unwind
  • A quiet and cozy bedroom

A healthy bedtime routine does NOT include:

  • Caffeine
  • Stimulating activities like TV, computer/tablet use or games before bed
  • TV, computer, phone, tablet or video games in the bedroom

For more information on the benefits of sleep for you and your little one, click here.

Healthy Eating

Even after a good night’s sleep, kids needs fuel to get them through the day. Be sure to fuel your child’s active mind and body with tasty, nutritious foods from the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide.

Start your child’s day off right with breakfast! Kids who eat breakfast have more energy and better concentration. Try to eat together, and take advantage of simple and healthy options like cereal and fruit, or yogurt and trail mix.

What about lunch? Check out our blog Inside the lunch box: Back-to-school tips for helpful lunch ideas!

And, wherever possible, choose unprocessed foods. Unprocessed foods have the nutrients your child needs without the added sugar and salt.

Physical Activity

Two girls running in park Sixty minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily is recommended in the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. This can be easy to do if you:

  • Limit screen time to under one hour per day or less
  • Encourage daily outdoor playtime
  • Walk to school with your child
  • Equip your child with proper clothing and footwear for gym class
  • Go for a walk as a family after school
Sun Safety

No matter the season, sun safety is important. The most harmful effects of sun exposure occur during early childhood. UV rays from the sun can reflect off snow, ice, water, sand and concrete which can cause sunburn, and skin and eye damage.

Helping your child learn to identify shaded areas like trees and buildings and to seek cover when needed is important. As is staying out of the sun when at its strongest between 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Handwashing

Proper handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent kids from getting sick. Encourage kids to wash their hands after going to the washroom, before eating and whenever hands get dirty.

Proper handwashing should take about the same amount of time it takes to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Happy Birthday”. When handwashing, kids should follow these steps:

  • Wet hands with warm water
  • Lather soap on both sides of hands and in between fingers for 15 seconds
  • Rinse hands
  • Dry hands thoroughly
Immunization

Immunization protects children from diseases. In many cases, immunizations are actually required for children to attend school in Ontario. Be sure to keep your child’s immunizations up-to-date and remember to report them to Public Health. When your child is fully protected, if an outbreak occurs, they will be able to stay in school.

Remember to keep your child’s yellow immunization card in a safe place, or use the ImmunizeCA app to carry it with you on your smartphone.

Taking the bus?

Students getting on school bus If travelling to school on a school bus, annual “first rider” programs are available to teach bus safety tips to your child, as well as how to get on and off the school bus safely.

Encourage your kids to walk to the bus stop. Just because you live too far to walk all the way, doesn’t mean they can’t walk part of the way!

Walking to school

Walking to school benefits you and your child. Fresh air and exercise stimulate the body and mind and can even help improve your child’s grades!

Before school starts it’s important to:

Backpack Safety

Little boy wearing backpack It’s important that young children avoid carrying heavy backpacks. Carrying a pack that is too heavy can cause complications in spine and back muscle development.

Backpacks should:

  • Weigh less than 10% of your child’s body weight
  • Have the heaviest items packed at the bottom of the bag
  • Carry only what is needed for the day
  • Have two shoulder straps and a waist strap to help distribute the weight more evenly

For even more backpack safety tips, check out this infographic.

Now that you know all the steps, we encourage you and your child to get prepped, be safe and have fun on the first day of school!

What safety tips do you share with your children?