Healthy habits help prepare preschoolers for the first day of school

Meeting the health and nutrition needs of your preschool child and establishing regular routines is important for your child’s success in school.

Healthy bodies and school readiness

Growing bodies and minds need balanced meals and snacks that include fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Calcium rich foods like milk and yogurt are important for building strong bones and teeth.

Children need the right amount of sleep. If children are healthy, rested, and feel well, they can focus on learning.

It’s important that families establish routines: bedtime routines, daily routines of waking, dressing, hygiene practices such as washing their faces, and eating breakfast. Consistent routines give children a sense of security and they know what to expect. Routines help children develop self-discipline. Not knowing what to expect can make children feel anxious.

Young children need to move! They need to run, play outdoors, and make friends, so get outside whenever possible. Remember to limit screen time (TV, computers, tablets, smart phones) to 1-2 hours per day. When your child is in front of a screen, be certain that he or she is playing age-appropriate video games or watching age-appropriate shows and movies.

Children learn that they are capable and important when families talk with them about their day. Teach them simple chores they can do successfully. When children experience success, they develop positive self-esteem and a “can do” attitude.

What can families do to help?

  • Provide balanced meals that include all of the food groups. Limit sugars and fats.
  • Provide healthy snack choices such as fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and healthy grains.
  • Eat together as a family as much as possible, using this time for conversations.
  • Model healthy eating practices for your child.
  • Use your child’s bedtime routine as a chance to read books and talk about the day.
  • Provide 60 minutes a day of outdoor physical activity you can do with your child such as running, taking a walk, or going to the park together. Can’t go outside? Try indoor activities that get arms and legs moving, like dancing together.
  • Provide your child with age-appropriate equipment such as balls, hula-hoops, a bicycle or a tricycle.
  • Provide a regular daily routine of tooth brushing and flossing. Visit the dentist with your child for regular check-ups.
  • Give your child simple chores such as setting the table or watering plants. Praise them when they complete their chores.
  • Learn about your child’s preschool. Introduce yourself to the teacher. Talk with your child about the school day. Who are their friends? What was the best part of the day?

Activities with your preschooler

  • Create a bedtime routine chart together: My Bedtime Routine
    You’ll need paper, crayons or markers, magazines. List what your child needs to do to be ready for bed and a good night’s sleep. Your child can draw the pictures or cut out pictures from magazines. You can also make the rows on the chart long so your child can check þ each step completed.
  • Teach your child about healthy foods. The next time you go shopping, include your preschooler in the experience. You’ll need a shopping list, a flyer from the grocery store, or crayons/markers for drawing. Identify several healthy foods from your shopping list. Together create his or her own shopping list or “scavenger hunt.” Use pictures from the flyer or have the child draw the items and write the word next to the picture. The shop and have your child find the healthy food items and cross them off the list. Discuss why these are healthy foods.
  • Track your child’s height: You’ll need a wall where you can mark your child’s height every few months, or you can make or purchase a growth chart. As you mark your child’s growth, discuss what it takes to grow up healthy and strong.
  • Sing a song to help your child wash their hands for at least 20 seconds: Teach your child this simple song sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat: “Wash, wash, wash your hands, Soap will make them clean! Scrub the germs ‘til they fall off, Germs go down the drain.” Sing it twice and that’s 20 seconds!
  • Get your child moving: Have a Dance Party! All you need is some music and your dancing shoes! Dance with your child to get exercise, have fun, and feel important because you’re spending time together.