For some of us, back-to-school is around the corner. For others, you still have a full glorious month of summer left. Either way, here are some tips (and the science behind those tips) to help make sure your kids learn and play at their best this school year.
1. Ditch the devices—Not entirely. Just before bedtime. Electronic devices interfere with sleep in two ways. 1) The blue light from devices is Sleep Enemy #1. That wavelength of light is remarkably good at suppressing melatonin, which helps induce sleep. The neurons in our retinas are also particularly attuned to blue light. These neurons signal to the brain that it’s daytime, keeping the brain alert and delaying the onset of REM sleep. 2) The content and use of devices also stimulates the brain at the exact same time that kids need the brain to be winding down for sleep.
Sleep is so fundamentally important for kids’ health, growth and ability to concentrate in school. To ensure quality sleep, the generally recommended advice is to turn off digital devices a minimum of 30 minutes before bedtime, but preferably 1-2 hours before bedtime.
2. Combat the summer slide—No, not the academic slide. The breakfast slide. During the summer, breakfast that used to be at 7 am somehow shifts to 8 am in June, 8:30 am by July and is now starting to hit 9/10 am. Time to make early morning breakfast a priority again.
Breakfast helps kids to focus better and stay alert. It gives them the brain fuel necessary to be creative, engage in problem-solving and improve hand-eye coordination. Because kids tend to sleep longer than adults, they also go for more hours in a “fasting” state. Breakfast, thus, becomes even more important for kids.
Rotate breakfast options and keep breakfast low on sugar to avoid mid-morning energy crashes. Some of our quick and healthy faves:
- Toast with avocado and honey (just not too heavy on the honey)
- KIND Granola (one of the lower sugar granolas we’ve seen)
- Kashi Dark Cocoa Karma (gives that yummy “chocolate milk in your cereal bowl” effect without tons of sugar)
- Quick-cooking plain oats topped with any combo of fun things (dried or fresh fruit, shredded coconut, nuts, cinnamon, cacao nibs, maple syrup)
3. Get the wiggles out—School is a lot of sitting. An increasing number of schools are cutting down on recess time and physical activity during the school day. (30 minutes of recess for a full-day kindergartner? Really?) This not only means that kids are getting less of the exercise they need to stay healthy. But they’re also missing out on time to develop important social skills like teamwork, negotiation and conflict resolution.
So whether it’s hitting the local playground, playing with the neighbors or engaging in team sports, kids need extra time outside of school for exercise and social engagement.
4. Brush teeth—Brushing teeth may not directly affect learning (unless your kid is plagued by cavities and gum disease) but smelly mouth is definitely not great for playing at school. In our household, brushing teeth within a reasonable time window is like pulling teeth. If you, too, have a reluctant tooth brusher in the house, an electric toothbrush may be just what they need to jumpstart the morning routine. An electric toothbrush can help remove more plaque and be more effective if your kiddo is the kind to do a 10-second manual brush.
Be sure to choose one made for children (3+) and with soft bristles for younger kids. You can also get one with fun bells and whistles like music, a timer, flashing lights and Disney characters.
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