Back-to-school checklist

There are a number of things you can do you help your kids get ready to go back to school. From the correct backpack to ensuring they are nit-free, this helpful guide will help your kids be school ready.

Be backpack savvyChoose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps – narrow ones can dig into your child’s shoulders, causing pain and restricting circulation. A padded back will protect against sharp objects inside the pack poking into them. Kids can suffer back problems from lugging around heavy backpacks, so make sure they only carry around stuff that is truly necessary. A backpack should never weigh more than 10-20% of the your child’s weight. They should also be encouraged to use both straps. Slinging the backpack over one shoulder can cause muscle strain and may also increase curvature of the spine.

Lunchbox lowdown Use the new school year as a chance to get your child into some healthy eating habits. For example:

  • Swap biscuits or sugary bars for pieces of fruit and chopped carrots or capsicum.

  • Fill bottles with water instead of cordial.

  • Stop buying white bread and start making sandwiches with wholemeal bread. Gradually move to using other sorts of bread, including rye and wholegrain.

  • If your child doesn’t get much protein in their diet and you want to avoid giving them processed meats, such as luncheon or salami, try putting a hard boiled egg in their lunchbox. My mum used to do this, and made them appealing by drawing funny faces on them!

  • Yoghurt is a great source of important calcium. To make them easier to eat, try one of the sorts that can be squeezed from the container and “drunk”.

Safe cycling If your child is riding their bike to school for the first time, do several practice runs. If there are tricky bits – such as turning right across traffic – tell them to get off their bike and push it to a nearby pedestrian crossing or to an easier place to get across the road. Make sure their helmet fits correctly and they have reflective visibility accessories such as a vest or diagonal body strap. Also check that they understand the road rules so they know what cars will be doing, and teach them appropriate hand signals.

Tell the teacher If your child has a health condition like asthma, diabetes or allergies, talk to their new teacher as soon as possible about their needs. Don’t assume the school administration staff or last year’s teacher will pass on the details. one mum I know, whose child has several allergies as well as asthma, has typed up a brief list of information (including contact numbers in case of emergency) and had two copies laminated. one copy has a hole punched in it and is tied onto her son’s schoolbag, the other she gives to his teacher. For intermediate and younger high school students, the first port of call is your child’s form teacher.

Those nasty nits The treatment of headlice is a hot topic of conversation, with people using lots of different remedies to get rid of these horrible creatures. oany treatments available from chemists are very effective, but some parents aren’t happy about putting lots of chemicals on their child’s head and prefer to use natural remedies, for example tea tree oil. A nit comb will physically remove them but you may have to comb the hair twice a day for two weeks to get rid of them all. Nits are highly contagious and will happily live in any hair – clean or dirty. They spread easily in schools, so to avoid the chance of your child getting them:

  • Brush their hair often to kill or injure lice, and stop them from laying eggs.

  • Discourage girls from sharing hair ties and clips and all children from sharing hats.

  • Don’t let them use other people’s brushes.

  • Avoid close physical contact with classmates.

  • If reinfection happens, see if your child can wear hair-covering headgear to school.

School sores Commonly called school sores, impetigo is a nasty contagious skin infection that is particularly common in late summer or autumn. It’s usually found on the hands and face as well as the arms and legs. It’s caused by bacteria which gets into the skin through a cut or scratch and your child can get it even if their skin is kept clean. It usually starts as a little blister, which later breaks and weeps. Yellow or brown scabs then form, and can burn and itch.

If you suspect impetigo, take your child to the doctor. They’ll be prescribed antibiotic tablets and must take the whole course, even once the sores have healed. Treat the sores by:

  • Washing with warm water and soap.

  • Applying an antiseptic cream.

  • Covering it with a dry dressing.

See to their sight Now is a good time to get your child’s eyes checked if you suspect they may have trouble seeing. Signs of visual problems include:

  • Difficulty reading from the board.

  • Slow reading or having to use a finger to guide their reading.

  • Excessive blinking.

  • Rubbing their eyes.

  • Sore eyes.

  • Sitting close to the TV.

  • Holding books close to their face.

often your child won’t tell you they can’t see properly because they don’t realise they have a problem. They think the blurry world they see is normal. The good news is many sight problems are correctable. Lowincome families may qualify for a subsidy to help with the cost of eye tests and glasses.

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