As kids head back to school, their success in the classroom largely depends on how prepared they are for learning. The amount of sleep they’re getting, the food they’re eating and the load they’re carrying all play a role.

“When kids are medically healthy, they are more ready for school,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. “And the early weeks of the new school year are a big transition for children of all ages.”

Get back to sleep
To help ensure your kids are ready for the new school year, encourage them to get plenty of sleep. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who do not get enough sleep have difficulty concentrating and absorbing information, and insufficient sleep has been linked to higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness.

How much sleep your child’s body and brain requires depends on their age:

  • Teens: at least 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Tweens: 9-10 hours of sleep per night
  • Elementary school-aged kids: 10-12 hours of sleep per night

Turn off the screens
Create an evening routine that includes turning off all screens two hours before bedtime.

“The problem with screens is that while they are calming to us emotionally on some level,
the blue light they emit stimulates our brain and makes it difficult to rest,” Dr. Bradshaw says.

Another barrier to getting adequate rest, particularly for older kids, is cell phones.

“It’s not uncommon for teens to have their phone blowing up all night long with kids Snapchatting them and texting them and it really disrupts their sleep.”

Dr. Bradshaw suggests docking your child’s phone in some other room in the house before bedtime, so it’s not a disruption to their sleep. If your child uses their phone to wake them up each morning, purchase them a battery-powered alarm clock.

Start your day off right
When it comes to optimal learning, breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day, so never skip it. Instead, plan ahead for busy mornings with grab-and-go foods that pack a nutritional punch.

“For example, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or give the kids a protein bar, a glass of milk and some fruit. You can also have leftovers from last night’s dinner that you heat up quickly in the microwave,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “So, even if it’s fast and on the run, they’re getting some long-lasting carbohydrates that are going to stick around, along with a good slug of protein. That’s going to help them to focus and learn.”

Watch your back
Pay attention to how much stuff your child is toting around in their backpack, because too much weight can lead to strains and pain. Children’s backpacks should never weigh more than 10-20 percent of their body weight. That’s 10-20 pounds for a child who weighs 100 pounds. Remind them to use both straps, and go through the pack with your child weekly to remove any unneeded items.

More back to school tips, click here.