Elementary years

The old saying: “Everything I needed to know about life, I learned in kindergarten” shows great wisdom. We believe that the elementary school years are among the most important years of school. Kids learn a lot about how to behave in society, and they learn a great deal about themselves. By the end of fifth grade (and much earlier for many kids), your child will probably have decided whether he “likes school” and whether he is “a good student.” Getting involved with your child’s school is a helpful way to ensure that your child enjoys these formative years.

Frequent health issues:

  • Tired kids – Elementary-age children require a minimum of eight hours of sleep, and many need up to 11 hours. Since school starts early, children are often up by 6 a.m., so it’s important for parents to enforce a reasonable bedtime. We recommend getting your child to bed around 8 p.m. Extracurricular activities often compound the fatigue factor. Many of the children we see are involved with multiple sports, music and other extracurricular activities. Being involved in too much can leave them (and their parents) exhausted. As a result, family time and unstructured playtime often suffers. We recommend that you and your child sit down together, prioritize activities and then set up a schedule that supports your family’s health and well-being. Involving your children in the schedule helps them learn the importance of time management, shows that you respect their opinion, and promotes their own self-respect.
  • Picky eaters – Adequate nutrition is an important part of learning. Yet, many young children are picky about what they eat, and may skip school snacks or meals. If you know that your child won’t eat what is offered at school, send along a healthy snack or lunch that contains at least three of the four major food groups (dairy, bread, meat/protein, and veggies/fruit). If your child is buying school lunch, study the menu and teach your child to make healthy choices (e.g. salad, bread, and milk instead of pizza, French fries and juice). See our nutrition section to lean more.
  • Obesity – The prevalence of overweight children in elementary school has quadrupled in the last 30 years and continues to rise. If other family members struggle with weight, be especially vigilant about your young child’s weight. Genetics can predispose a child to gaining pounds more easily. Childhood obesity can become a lifelong struggle. Be watchful, not fanatical. Negative comments about your child’s body and weight can have a lasting impact on his self-esteem. An easy way to know if your child is growing appropriately is to see your pediatrician at Eugene Pediatric Associates for an annual check-up. See our nutrition section to lean more about healthy eating habits.
  • Food allergies – If your child has a food allergy, talk to his teacher, the school nurse and front office staff. Provide an Epi-Pen Jr., along with a written Food Allergy Action Plan and emergency phone numbers to call if he accidentally eats something allergenic. Early use of epinephrine pens saves lives. Go to our allergies section for more information.
  • Asthma – If your child has asthma, be sure his teacher, school nurse and front office staff are aware of his condition, its symptoms and treatment. Provide an up-to-date rescue inhaler and spacer, along with a written Asthma Action Plan and your pediatrician’s name and phone number. Visit our asthma section to learn more.

How to help your child succeed in school:

  • Provide a nutritious breakfast. Studies show that kids who eat well before school are more able to focus and learn. Serve something from each major food group (e.g. slice of toast with peanut butter, half a banana and a glass of milk). Avoid sugary, artificially colored foods, which burn off quickly and can leave your child feeling tired and less able to focus.
  • Encourage sleep. Young children require 8 to 11 hours of sleep for optimal health and learning.
  • Read with your child for 15 minutes every day. To keep him engaged and to check his understanding, ask him questions about what you read. This allows you and your child to reconnect. It also improves his memory and vocabulary.
  • Always speak positively about school. Your child will mirror your attitude.
  • Stay informed.  Talk to your child’s teacher at least once a week, if not daily. Asking for feedback about your child and how he is doing demonstrates that you’re truly supportive of his success and happiness in school.
  • Support your child’s teacher. They are giving of their heart and expertise to help your child. Engage them in a positive way.
  • Go to parent-teacher conferences. Keep an open mind and seek out information about his accomplishments, as well as areas that need improvement. It’s okay to ask questions.
  • Volunteer, if you can. Your child will appreciate your involvement. For working parents, there are often helpful tasks you can do in the evening at home. Ask your child’s teacher how you can get involved.
  • Support homework time. Create a quiet, well-lit spot that encourages homework. Be available, so that your child feels your support. Do not criticize your child’s work or do it yourself!
  • Beware of too many extracurricular activities. Too many after school events can distract your child or leave them exhausted. They’re still young and need unstructured time for play and family time.
  • Talk to your child’s school about any medical conditions. Talk to your child’s teacher, the school nurse and front office staff. If he needs emergency medications nearby, provide an up-to-date prescription with clear, written instructions. And explain how and when to administer the medication in an emergency. Too often, children do not have the medication they need at school when they need it, or school staff waits too long to give it. In an emergency, minutes matter.

School matters

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Helping your child thrive in school

When it comes to a child’s academic success, parents play an important role. Michele Reiersgaard, an educator for 28 years, says parent involvement in a child’s education is especially important at the elementary level because that’s where the foundation for learning develops.