Many parents may have rising concerns about keeping their little ones healthy through this school year with kids back in school.
The school year does provide a lot more structure for healthy routines, but it also cuts down on a lot of free time for kids and parents alike, and business can sometimes make it more challenging to make healthy choices.
One of the biggest concerns for parents is the rise in screen time throughout the year, which is compacted by the rising use of technology in classrooms and homework.
Let's explore some of my top tips for cultivating healthy screen habits and other foundations for healthy, happy kids and learning.
THE IMPACTS OF SCREEN TIME:
It is becoming more widely known that screen time has adverse effects on ours and our children’s health. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why:
- Negatively affects the brain, limiting capacity for reasoning and critical thinking
- Limits development by creating a tunnel vision for technology and lack of awareness and opportunity to learn through external environment
- Limits language development as children benefit from a face-to-face reciprocal conversation rather than a passive experience with a screen
- Affects circadian rhythm & sleep quality
- Lowers metabolism and interferes with digestion
- Encourages sedentary behaviour
So how do we cultivate and model healthy habits before and after the day at school?
6 EASY TIPS TO CUT DOWN ON SCREEN TIME
It can be tough to manage screen time for kids, especially since so much of their day-to-day lives involve screens in one way or another. But reducing screen time doesn't have to be difficult – here are 6 easy tips that can help!
Screen-Free Meal Time
Eating in front of the TV makes us more likely to have unhealthy habits. This is because we are not paying attention to the food and how our body feels after eating. It lowers our metabolism and may also lead to indigestion. Meal time is a great time to connect and bond with each other rather than focusing on our screens.
Including kids in daily tasks, rather than using a screen to distract them, such as helping make dinner, setting the table, and tidying up, helps to invite shared responsibility and engagement in daily life and face-to-face tasks and activities.
Encourage Physical Activity & Play time -
Depending on the day at school, sometimes kids are tired and need to rest and decompress– and in these instances, I recommend suggesting restful play or reading options for your kids rather than numbing activities like screen time. On those days when excess energy still needs to be released, it encourages more active play and creative or physical activities rather than sitting in front of the TV.
Use Parental Controls
To moderate the types of activities participated in on screens, parents can set parental controls to limit the types of searches, apps and games that kids can access. This is a helpful way to encourage educational and parent-approved content. Some parental controls allow a time limit on devices and apps and are also a handy way to set the limit of time per day on the screen.
60 Min Bedtime Rule
Screens before bed harm our sleep quality. Blue light from screens raises our cortisol levels and limits our melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Turn off all screens at least 60 minutes before bedtime to encourage better sleep. 60 min rule will help the body relax and prepare for sleep.
Be a Good Role Model
Kids learn by observing the people around them. Kids will follow suit if those around them, such as parents and other caregivers, use technology responsibly.
However, if they witness unhealthy tech habits, they'll be more likely to develop these themselves. Therefore, it's important to set a positive example for young ones when interacting with screens!
Wherever you find yourself in your family's relationship to screen time, don't forget to choose your battles wisely. Every moment is an opportunity to teach and model good boundaries with technology, and at the same time, do go easy on yourself.
DR. MARITA’S BACK TO SCHOOL NUTRITION GUIDE
- Protein & Healthy Fat. Helps to satiate and regulate blood sugar.
- Veggies & Fruits. Source of natural sugars, vitamins & fibre, also helping to regulate blood sugar levels and boost energy.
- Whole Grains / Healthy Starches. Nutrient and mineral-rich.
- Hydration. Aids with concentration, mood regulation, and avoiding fatigue from physical activity.
TOP 4 Back to School Supplements
The Canadian Winter leaves many of us with insufficient vitamin D, which can impact mood, energy levels, and impacts on growing bones due to its role in calcium absorption.
There’s a strong correlation between gut health and brain health, so give both a boost in your child by giving them a high-quality probiotic daily.
Probiotics are bacteria that help digestion and are similar to the good bacteria in your gut. They work by restoring balance in the intestinal tract and by supporting healthy digestion.
Probiotics can help reduce bloating, gas, and diarrhea - all common digestive issues that can be exacerbated by stress. Probiotics may be a good option if your child is having trouble with digestion.
Vitamin C helps to support a healthy immune system, which is especially important as we head into cold and flu season.
Ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin that is important for good health. It is involved in many different processes in the body, including immune system function. Vitamin C is a vitamin that can be found in some citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons. It may also be taken as a supplement.
Vitamin C supplementation has decreased the length and severity of colds and other respiratory illnesses. Vitamin C is an excellent choice if your kid is prone to getting sick or if you want to improve their immune system.
#4 Cognitive Function Supplement - Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 essential fatty acids are integral to proper brain and memory development. A high-quality fish oil will help support smart kids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients involved in many different processes in the body, including brain function. They can be found naturally in fish oil but can also be taken as a supplement.
Studies have shown that omega-3 can improve children's cognitive function. If your child struggles with focus or concentration, omega-3 fatty acids may be worth considering.