How to get your child ready to go back to school

With the summer holidays starting to wind down, now’s the perfect time to start preparing your little one for the new school term.

Here are some of the steps you should take now so your entire family is ready to go back to school:

Help them get a good night’s sleep

Studies suggest tired children don’t perform well at school. But if your child has been staying up later than usual during the summer holidays, getting them back into their normal sleep schedule won’t happen overnight. So it’s important to start getting them used to going to bed earlier sooner, rather than waiting until the night before the new term starts.

Gradually change your child’s bedtime now, and try to make sure they don’t use their mobile, tablet or laptop before turning in (the blue light given off by digital devices has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns). Also try to avoid having your last meal too late in the evening, and don’t let your child drink caffeinated drinks – including hot chocolate – for a good few hours before going to bed.

If you need help changing your child’s bedtime to make sure they’re getting the right amount of sleep by the time they go back to school, there’s a handy free website app that may help. The Back-to-school sleep calculator generates a sleep schedule for your child based on their age, what time they go to bed during the school holidays and what time they need to get up during the new school term.

Tackle allergies with their teacher

If your child has an allergy such as eczema, asthma or a food allergy – or indeed any long-term condition – it’s advisable to discuss their health needs with their teacher or the school head before term starts. Make sure they’re fully informed about your child’s condition and, if necessary, that the school has made arrangements to keep medicines on site and that members of staff know how to give those medicines should they be needed.

According to the NHS, here are some of the other things you should tell your child’s teacher or school about:

  • Any side effects associated with your child’s medicines
  • What they should do in an emergency (and what constitutes an emergency)
  • What dietary requirements your child needs, if relevant
  • What should be done before your child takes part in physical activities (if they have asthma, for instance)
  • How often your child may need to take time off school for medical appointments

Give them a healthy breakfast

A good breakfast will help set your child up for the day ahead. So try to get back into the habit of having a proper meal at breakfast time before your child starts back at school.

Base your breakfast on starchy foods, preferably wholegrain bread or cereals. Try to choose cereals that are lower in salt and sugar and serve with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk if your child is aged five or older (if they’re younger, they should have whole milk). Porridge is also an ideal breakfast, but try to get them used to having it made without sugar.

You can also make sure they get some vitamins and minerals before going to school by adding some fruit – a sliced banana on toast, for instance, or add some fresh, frozen or tinned fruit to their porridge or cereal.

And whenever possible, try to avoid giving your child a breakfast bar before going to school, as these can be high in fat, salt and sugar. If you’re pushed for time in the morning, try making a fruit smoothing the night before and keeping it in the fridge until the morning (mix fruit, yoghurt and milk – add a handful oats to thicken, if you like – and blend until smooth).

Encourage them to wash their hands

School classrooms are the ideal environment for cough, cold and flu bugs to circulate. But, as studies suggest, washing your hands regularly can reduce your risk of catching a bug. Try to get your child into the habit of washing their hands frequently, especially after going to the toilet and before eating.

It’s also a good idea to find out if your child is eligible for a free nasal spray flu vaccine on the NHS. All children over the age of six months who have a long-term medical condition such as diabetes or asthma should automatically have a free flu vaccine each year.

This year some other groups of children are also being offered the vaccination to protect them against flu, which may help reduce flu from spreading to other children and adults. The children being offered the flu vaccine this year include all those who are two, three or four years of age, all those in school years 1, 2 and 3, and all primary school aged children in some parts of the country. Find out more at nhs.uk/child-flu

Deal with warts and verrucas

Like cold and flu viruses, the infections that cause skin problems such as warts and verrucas are easily spread from one child to another. Ask your local Careway pharmacist for details of products that remove warts and verrucas before your child goes back to school – these days, products are available that work fast, so if you act now your child’s skin could be infection free before school starts.

Prepare for itchy heads

The NHS claims one in three children in the UK may get head lice at some point during the year. So find out how to manage head lice now rather than waiting until your child’s school has an outbreak.

If you haven’t used detection combing before, it’s a good idea to practise before term starts. Regular detection combing is thought to be the best way to find new lice, and is carried out by using a special fine-toothed head lice comb on wet or dry hair (though wet hair works best). Head lice combs are available at pharmacies – your local Careway pharmacist can show you how to use it.

And if you do find a live louse in your child’s hair, your pharmacist can also supply you with an over-the-counter head lice lotion or spray to treat the infestation (these products should only be used if you find a live louse).

Find a Careway pharmacy where you live by using our Pharmacy Finder.