Back-to-School Health Checklist


Ah, the smell of sunscreen. The joy of homework-free evenings. The less-scheduled family calendar… How did summer pass so quickly?

Yep, it’s time to get the kids ready to head back to school. Are your child’s immunizations up to date? Does he need new glasses? What time should she go to bed? We’ve rounded up expert advice on all this and more so your kids will be ready for the big day!

Schedule a well-child checkup.
Most states require only two well-child exams for school enrollment: at the start of kindergarten and high school. Some states vary, so check with your school. An additional exam is often required for participation in a school sport. Check with your child’s doctor regarding how often to schedule additional well-child check-ups. During your child's checkup ask for a copy of his/her immunization record. For immunization schedules, safety reports and other frequently asked questions visit

Have your child's vision checked.
Basic vision screening should be performed by your child’s doctor at each well-child examination. If a child fails a vision screening, or if there is any concern about a vision problem, she should be referred for a comprehensive professional eye exam, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). For children who wear glasses, the AAO recommends one-piece wrap-around polycarbonate sports frames for contact sports.

Communicate about medications.
Does your child receive medication on a regular basis for diabetes, asthma or another chronic health problem? School nurses and teachers must be aware of your child's needs, especially if they are the ones who will administer the medicine. Speak with them about the prescribed medication schedule, and work out a course of action in case of an emergency.

Schedule testing if you suspect a learning disability or dyslexia. 
If you feel your child may not be processing information as he/she should, speak with her teacher and her doctor as soon as possible.

Plan ahead for brain-power breakfasts.
Studies show that children who eat breakfast are more alert in class.
Try to include protein (peanut butter, low-fat cheese, milk or yogurt are good choices), as well as fruit and whole grains.

Update emergency phone numbers.
Are your current emergency phone numbers on file at school? Make sure the school and your child know how to reach you or another caregiver at all times. If your child has a cell phone, talk with him about when and where it can be used safely. Chatting on a cell phone or texting while walking or biking to school can be dangerous. Explain to your child the importance of paying attention to his surroundings and being aware of cars and bikes. Set a good example by not using a cell phone (even a hands-free model) while driving.

Review school-bus safety rules.
Designate a safe place for your child to wait for the bus, away from traffic and the street. And review these safety rules, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with your child:

When getting on the bus, wait for the driver's signal. Board the bus one at a time.

When getting off the bus, look before stepping off the bus to be sure no cars are passing on the right. (It’s illegal, but it happens.) Move away from the bus.

Before crossing the street, take five "giant steps" out from the front of the bus, or until the driver's face can be seen. Wait for the driver to signal that it's safe to cross.

Look left-right-left when coming to the edge of the bus to make sure traffic is stopped. Keep watching traffic when crossing.

Ask the driver for help if you drop something near the bus. If you bend down to pick up something, the driver cannot see you and you may be hit
by the bus.

Create a healthy sleep schedule.
The National Sleep Foundation says school-age kids need the following amounts of sleep, depending on age:
Preschoolers: 11 to 13 hours
Ages 5 to 10: 10 to 11 hours
Ages 10 to 17:8.5 to 9.25 hours

That can be a tough prescription to follow, with the increasing demands on kids’ time from homework, sports and other extracurricular activities. As they get older, school-aged children become more interested in TV, video games and the Web (as well as caffeinated beverages). This can lead to difficulty falling asleep and sleep disruptions. Poor sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems and cognitive problems that affect a child’s ability to learn. To help your child get a good night’s sleep, teach healthy sleep habits, emphasize the need for a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine, create a good environment for sleep (dark, cool and quiet) and keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom.

Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York Presbyterian Hospital, American Academy of Pediatrics, Texas Children’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic, National Sleep Foundation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist who frequently covers children’s-health issues. Her son is not pleased that she knows the National Sleep Foundation’s sleep recommendation for 15-year-olds. Visit her blog (for moms!) at


Thinking outside the box
How to pack a great school lunch
by Jessica Fisher

perhaps some johnny cake — such was the school lunch of prairie children in years gone by. Today, many parents have memories of choosing a new tin lunch box at the beginning of the school year. Should it be Superman or Star Wars? Times have changed somewhat. Tin has been replaced by space-age technology that keeps food cold. While Star Wars and Superman may still be choices in dinnerware, lunch itself has changed. Leftover fried chicken and cornbread have been replaced by a school-cooked lunch, a pre-made cheese and crackers kit, or even fast food. Yet bringing lunch from home can still be a viable option for your family.

Packing a lunch, whether for you, your spouse or your kids, can be a great way to save money, to ensure good nutrition, or simply to add a little sunshine into the day of someone you love. Here are a few ideas for planning and organizing portable feasts that demonstrate your love and care as well as bring a little joy into the mundane moments of school and work.

Determine what resources are available at school or work.  For instance, some schools provide microwaves for the children to use. If this is the case, you can send favorite reheat. Perhaps single items are available for purchase, such as milk or juice.  Knowing this will help you in your planning.

Create lists of favorite foods. Be sure to include sandwiches, side salads, fruits, baked goods, and snacks. While you may already know which breads, meats and cheeses your family likes, having this information on paper frees up space in your brain and makes it easier to plan and to add variety to the menu. Update this list as new tastes are introduced.

Plan a week of lunches. Make a chart of each weekday and the basic general plan for lunch. You can coordinate this with your dinner plans to use up leftovers or to balance out nutritional intakes  Perhaps your little diners do like the same thing everyday, but they will enjoy it even more when you add a little variety to make things more interesting. Slipping in a few surprises, such as banana bread or fresh, chopped fruit, helps them look forward to lunchtime.

Think assembly line.  Buy the huge bag of chips or cookies rather than the more expensive, individual sized bags.  Spend a few minutes on Sunday night to divide that huge bag into smaller plastic bags.  Store all your self-bagged goodies in a plastic box in the pantry, ready to be grabbed at a moment’s notice.  Make everyone’s sandwich at the same time.  Designate a shelf in the fridge to line up each person’s lunch items to be packed in the morning. 

Include a little “warm fuzzy,” such as a note of encouragement and affection, a candy “kiss,” a “coupon” for a fun activity, or a handmade trivia card based on your child’s interests. Don’t feel obligated to do this all the time. But, a once-in-a-while surprise is a wonderful boost to anyone’s sense of being loved and cared for.

With a little extra work and planning, you can prepare a meal your family will look forward to!  

Jessica Fisher is a freelance writer. When not packing lunches for her husband and six children, she regularly writes at

Study time
With summer winding down, it’s that time of year again: back-to-school!

Tips for Doing Homework:
1. Make homework a non-negotiable thing. Don’t let whining or crying affect telling your child to do their work.
2. Getting homework done is a must, so if necessary tell your child “no homework, no this.” The “this” can include television or play time with friends.
3. Reward systems work sometimes, but they tend to give the wrong message to kids. Homework shouldn’t include extra privileges.
4. Push kids into not procrastinating, for it makes it harder on them in the long run.
5. Routine is very important for kids of all ages! Set aside a given time to do work, especially in the summer months.
6. Have a half an hour set up every single day to do homework.
7. Have a set place also helps, including a specific desk or table.
8. The number one tip? Have your kid get their work done as soon as possible!

Finding a Good Tutor for Your Child:
1. Be sure the tutor is willing to work at your child’s pace.
2. A good tutor should be able to put a student at ease and develop a good personal relationship. If a student is uncomfortable, it makes it hard for them to learn.
3. Check the tutor’s qualifications, including previous experience and educational qualifications in the subject matter.
4. It’s also important to note the tutor’s experience with students your child’s age.
5. A tutor should work to create confidence in a student to tackle challenges on their own while having the confidence to ask for help.
6. All children can benefit from tutoring, whether struggling or at the top of his or her class.
Vidya Khasbardar, owner and director of the Kumon Center in Findlay, provided some useful tips for motivating your child for success with homework, along with finding the right tutor for your child. 2020 Tiffin Ave., Unit 2, 567-208-5287.

Home alone
When are children ready or not?
by Denise Yearian

Last fall, I had a big decision to make: Whether or not to leave my children home alone after school until I finished my workday. Up to this point, I had arranged my schedule to be home when they arrived home from school. But with a change in jobs, this convenience was no longer an option.

Were they ready to handle being home alone? Was I ready? While I wanted to foster my children's growing independence, I knew safety had to come first. So how did I decide? How can you decide if your child is ready to be home alone?

First, consider age. According to many child development experts, most kids are ready to stay home alone somewhere between the ages of 12 and 13. But since children mature at different rates, parents should consider each child individually.

Another factor to consider is safety. That first year my children stayed home alone, they were 12, 10 and 7. While I considered my oldest mature enough to handle the day-to-day responsibilities, I wondered what he would do if an emergency occurred. Would he keep a clear head remembering the safety procedures I taught him, or would his mind go blank?

Consider siblings. When making the decision for myself, I looked at my children's inter-relationships. Although they played well together most of the time, there were days when tempers flared. How would my son handle the situation if a heated battled broke out? And, what if, during that time, his younger sisters did not respect him as the one "in charge"?

After long deliberation, we decided to give it a trial run. But not without some basic training. I sat down with my children, and together we came up with a list of house rules. Topics discussed included the following:

Who was allowed in the house while I was away.
How they were to respond to the doorbell.

How they were to answer the phone.

What food they could prepare.

How much time could be spent on the computer and watching TV.

Whether or not they could play outside.

What to do about the unexpected.

The list of rules was posted in the kitchen. Also posted (next to the telephone) was a list of emergency phone numbers such as 911, the doctor, and local fire and police. Other telephone numbers added to the list were their grandparent's house, a trusted neighbor's home, Dad’s work, Mom's work, and our cell phone numbers.

Because I knew my children needed to learn basic safety rules, we went over a simple fire escape plan, discussed how to operate a small fire extinguisher, and learned what to do in the event of an emergency. At the same time, we covered basic first-aid, such as what to do if one of them hit his or her head or was choking on food.

To keep my children from getting bored after homework was done, and television and computer time were used up, we made up a list of things they might enjoy doing for the day. Suggestions included board games, computer games, simple crafts, writing letters, etc.

I did my best to lend emotional support. Every few days I would leave a note reassuring them of my love and concern, and remind them that I trusted they would behave. On occasion, I would surprise them with a treasure hunt by scattering clues around the house that led to a special surprise.

Finally, every night when I came home, we would take a few minutes to sit down and share the events of their day — how school went, what homework they had, television shows they watched, what they did online, etc. Then I would ask them, "Were you comfortable here by yourselves?" Almost always the answer was yes.

Yes, my children were ready to stay home alone.

Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children.