Staying on Track for Back to School

Janey StarksClinics


With summer coming to an end, it can be difficult to get back on a school schedule for both children and parents. To see what parents can do to help their children start on the right foot, we sat down and talked with some of our providers and came up with some tips that we hope will help you get back to school with success.

Q. How many hours of sleep should children get?

Tracy Dixon, Behavioral Health Consultant, Gateway Clinic: It depends on the child and their age. Children under 1 may need 20 hours of sleep, but that is also dependent on when growth spurts happen. Sometimes little ones sleep a lot and sometimes they sleep less. It depends on when the brain decides it needs to grow. Five-year olds need at least 10 to 11 hours of sleep a day and that doesn’t drop until the child is around 7 or 8-years old, then they require 9 hours of sleep.

Q. How can parents help children decrease stress before and during school?

Parents should support their child with homework and always ask about their day. Some things parents can ask about include what they learned, who they spent the day with (friends) and what they need help with. Parents should show interest in the child’s schooling and verbally reward them with praise when they succeed.


Q. If you could recommend one thing parents should do before children go back to school, what would it be?

Michelle Byers, Nurse Practitioner, Christown Clinic: I would recommend that parents make sure their children’s vaccines are up to date. If their child has not had their yearly physical (or sports physical if their child is planning to participate in school sports), it is a perfect time to get that done as well. Schools in Arizona are very strict about making sure kids have their vaccinations up to date, and if parents are on top of this before school starts, they don’t have to worry about missing any days of school.


Q. What are some quick and easy snacks/meals children can have on the go?

Jennie Altman, Registered Dietitian, Goodyear Clinic: Busy schedules are one of the top reasons people say it’s hard to eat healthy. I always encourage people to think about the five main food groups when they are trying to figure out what to eat: fruits, vegetables, dairy, proteins and grains. The most nutritious meals combine two or more food groups. Some examples for quick and easy meals that can be taken on the go are:

  • Hard boiled eggs and toast (protein and grains)
  • Fruit and yogurt parfaits (fruit and protein)
  • Sandwiches (grains, veggies, protein)

Sandwiches are always an option for simple, balanced meals. Lunch meat or peanut butter counts as protein, and adding lettuce, spinach, avocado, or tomatoes helps add vegetables to the meal! Use whole wheat bread for extra nutrition.

You can turn breakfast into a fun sandwich creation by using frozen toaster waffles instead of bread! Try using an English muffin and make a breakfast pizza by topping it with a tomato and cheese before toasting or heating in the microwave.

Q. What snacks should parents avoid?

I recommend all people avoid soda – especially children. Soda is full of sugar, and does not contain any vitamins or food groups necessary for the growth and development of children. The high sugar content of soda can also make children feel full quickly, causing them to eat less at meal times.

All other snacks and treats can still be enjoyed while eating healthy, it’s all about moderation! Try not to have chips or sweets every day, and read the nutrition labels to avoid overeating these “sometimes” foods. Also looking for more nutritious treats can help satisfy sweet cravings and provide good benefits! Instead of having ice cream, try frozen yogurt, which has more calcium, vitamin D, protein, and probiotics to help support a good immune system!


Q. How do I get my kids to eat better?

Dr. Abraham Lee, Pediatrician, Maryvale Clinic: You really need to get rid of the sugary drinks. Children are so busy running and playing that it’s easier for them to stop and curb hunger with a sugary drink than to sit down and eat a meal. Having cold water available to the kids at every meal helps plant the seed of not craving sweet or caffeinated drinks in the future.


Q. What should children do to stay healthy in the summer for an easy transition into the school year?

Kristen McElliott, Nurse Practitioner, Baseline Clinic: Children need to stay active during the summer months, even with the Arizona heat. Creative ways of staying active include doing water sports at the local swimming pools and playing water games outside. Using free resources like YouTube, you can find indoor home workouts that require little or no equipment. Activities in the summer keep children’s bodies and minds engaged in goal setting and daily motivational actions. They also prevent excessive weight gain and boredom, along with helping with sleep cycles. Maintaining a normal sleep schedule during the summer is important to maintain healthy sleep for an easier readjustment to school hours.

Q. What’s the importance of getting a back to school physical?

Back to school physicals, or annual physicals, are important to review any medical, emotional or developmental concerns that may interfere with your child’s performance in school. This also clears children to safely play sports that help reinforce lessons in social skills, teamwork and goal setting.


Q. What should parents and children expect during a well-check visit?

Lara Savage, Nurse Practitioner, Tempe Clinic: Well-child visits are done to check the growth, development, and overall well-being of your child. At their appointment children have their height, weight, blood pressure, and heart rate measured. They will be examined head to toe to make sure they are healthy. Your child is assessed not only for physical well-being and development but also for emotional and cognitive development. Vaccine status and vaccination to prevent disease will also be evaluated. This preventative well-child visit helps identify problems early and can allow for better management and treatment of diseases and problems.

Q. What are some things parents can do to get ready for the new school year?

School can be an exciting time of life for your child and being prepared for the start of the school year can make the transition easier. I encourage parents to:

  • Establish a routine. Aspects of a home routine include a regular bedtime, time set aside for study and also for play.
  • Limit screen time. Excess TV, video games, or internet time can lead to poor health and language development. Screen time also includes phone screen time, so try to limit that too.
  • Make reading fun! Read together at home. This can make for a fun activity while improving your child's reading comprehension, language and social skills all the while making them more likely to succeed in school.
  • Keep children active and keep them safe. Physical exercise improves behavior and children's ability to learn. Use protective equipment such as helmets, sunscreen, and seat belts.
  • Schedule well-child checkups.It is also important to schedule well-child visits and dental appointments to keep them healthy and on the right track.

Remember, scheduling an appointment with us is easy! We have seven convenient locations all around the valley to get your healthcare needs met. Call us today (602) 243-7277.