Back to school tips to help children stay active and healthy

It’s that time of year again, the school holidays are over and that means heading back to school or heading to school for the first time for kids all over the Northern Beaches. The start of the school year can be filled with excitement or dread for both parents and kids. Going through booklists, getting all the right uniforms and planning getting everyone to school are all important parts of the new school year, but it can cause some other areas to be overlooked.

The start of the school year usually brings an increase in child patients in physiotherapist’s office across the Northern Beaches as a number of factors create the perfect storm for injuries and pain to arise.

Following these tips will help you and your child get through the back to school period as happy and healthy as possible.

Focus on good nutrition and hydration

Children are balls of energy at most ages, and balls of energy require the right fuel to keep them healthy and going throughout the day. Playing outside in the heat of the day dehydrates children faster than adults and without good hydration habits, kids can end up with heat stroke pretty quickly. Eating a good healthy breakfast and lunch will help your child to concentrate throughout the day as well.

Find the right backpack

Do you like the idea of carrying around an uncomfortable backpack filled with heavy objects that might as well be rocks? Try running and jumping with them on as most children do. The wrong school bags filled with heavy books and lunches are a prime cause of back pain in children and can even lead to long term damage and malformation of the bones. Usually this is due to inappropriately sized bags, not carrying the bag correctly (on one shoulder like the cool kids) and too much weight.

How do I choose the right backpack?

  • Forget good looks, put comfort and fit at the top of the priority list
  • Make sure the backpack is properly sized – no wider than your child’s chest
  • Choose a backpack with broad, padded shoulder straps

Once you’ve found the right backpack:

  • Place the heaviest items at the bottom, close to the spine for better weight distribution
  • Don’t overload the backpack – moderate weight IS NOT harmful to your child’s back
  • Don’t let your child sling the backpack over one shoulder
  • Any waist straps are there for a reason – use them!
  • Don’t wear the backpack any lower than the hollow of the lower back

Make sure your child has comfortable shoes

Good shoes for your child are just as important as getting good tyres for your car! The average kid spends over 1500 hours per year in their school shoes, running, jumping, and playing sport on hard surfaces. That’s a lot of time to be spending in shoes that are unsupportive or that are incorrectly sized for your child. Children are susceptible to ankle injuries while their bones and joints are strengthening and shin splints are no fun for anybody! Some tips to look out for when picking shoes for your child include:

  • Make sure they fit correctly – too much or too little space affects comfort and can potentially cause blisters or the foot to move too much within the shoe
  • Make sure the shoe has a firm heel counter to hold a firm support around the ankle
  • Make sure the shoe bends at the toes where the foot naturally bends to avoid extra stress underneath the foot

Limit time on electronic devices

Research shows that spending too much time on iPads, phones and other touchscreen devices could lead to the muscles and bones of young children not developing properly. A Curtin University study conducted in 2016 showed that poor neck posture with little neck movement and decreased physical activity could lead to neck pain and under-developed muscles and bones.

Outdoor games are not just a fun way for children to exercise with their friends – getting outside like the good old days, away from the iPad, will help children develop their bodies, sleep better and keep them active while also having fun. Which is the best part of being a kid!

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