Elementary School: 5-10
The elementary school stage is probably scarier for parents than children – your baby is growing up! With this new-found independence comes a lot of firsts – some that can be even more exciting than their first steps!
Riding the Bus
If possible and available, it is best for your child to take the bus the first day of school – even kindergarteners. Here are some ideas that will make the experience smooth for both of you:
- Prepare your child by hyping up the bus ride and going over safety rules.
- Take your child to the school bus stop and pick them up at the stop after school (or send a designated care giver).
- Do not follow the bus to school to help your child once he has arrived. The teachers will be able to help him/her find the way.
- If your child complains about other children on the bus, get all the facts and contact the child’s teacher or principal.
Early in school, homework will be fun activities and exercises, but it still is important to lay the foundation for good homework habits:
- Designate a specific area for homework to be done.
- Agree on a regular time to complete homework, either by the clock or before play time, video games, etc.
- Do not complete homework for your child. If your child seems to need a lot of help, talk to his/her teacher about other ways you can help.
- Even if your child does not have homework on a certain night, try to have them read a book, write in a journal, etc. in order to keep a routine.
- Volunteer in your child’s classroom so you can get a feel for what they are learning, the teacher’s instruction style and what homework assignments to look out for.
- Ask your child about his/her day at school in order to show interest and support of their activities and get a feel of their stress level, which may affect their homework regime.
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Even if your child has friends outside of school, he/she probably will form more as they progress through grade school. However, children can bepicky, so do not be alarmed if it seems like he/she often has a new best friend and, as a result, ex-best friend. Here are some ideas about how you can nurture your child’s friendships:
- Meet your child’s friends and their parents or caregivers.
- Invite the friends over for play dates, but be sure to have an established set of house rules.
- Find out what rules are set at your child’s friends house so you can talk about them with your child.
- Get your child involved in extracurricular activities to expose him/her to more friend-making opportunities, increase self esteem and encourage social behaviors.
- If a problem arises with a friend, talk to your child about why they think it happened and what they can do to solve it.
- If you suspect your child might be bullied or is bullying others, speak to his/her teacher or principal immediately.
It is important for parents to encourage health eating habits at meals and snacks by providing a diverse combination of fruits, vegetables, protein (beans, meat), dairy (milk, cheese) and starches (bread, pasta). For healthy snack and meal recipe ideas based on Florida produce, view the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Extreme Cuisine cookbook. These tips will help you maintain a healthy diet for your child:
- Try to make sure his/her school lunches also are healthy. Consider packing meat and cheese sandwiches, cheese sticks, fruit, cut-up vegetables, yogurt, crackers, etc. Also be sure to limit juices and soft drinks and encourage water and milk.
- Setting a good example yourself will make it easier to encourage and establish good, healthy eating habits.
- Encourage healthy after-school snacks like fruit, veggies and low-fat dip, graham crackers and peanut butter, cheese and crackers, etc.
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast helps jump-start digestion and metabolism.
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Children need at least one hour of exercise a day. With busy schedules, you would think it difficult for families to find the time to fit in fitness, but it is easier than you would think!
- Turn off the TV: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 2 and up (including parents!) viewing no more than one-two hours of “quality” TV. This means educational, non-violent programming.
- Once your child is 6 years old, encourage them to get involved in active organized extracurricular activities like sports and dance. The costs of lessons, games, uniforms, costumes, etc. can be difficult for every family’s budget, so look for free and reduced-cost programs in your area.
- Go outside: Going for a walk, planting in the garden, swimming in the pool, playing sports and games – all of these activities are great ways to get in exercise.
- Go on a trip: Try family outings and trips that encourage fun exercise, such as canoeing or hiking at a Florida State Park – many park visits and activities are free!
- Set an example: By seeing YOU exercise, physical fitness becomes a way of life for your child. Set the example to create a healthy habit.
If your child gets involved in sports, be sure they are safe:
- Depending on the sport, be sure your child has the correct protective gear. Used equipment stores are great places to get low-cost gear, but be sure it is safe – items like helmets should not be used again after even one collision.
- Wear a mouthguard for contact sports. There are three types of mouthguards: Ready-made (stock), mouth-formed (boil-and-bite), and custom (made by a dentist).
- Be sure your child warms up and stretches. They may not look like it but even athletes like professional football players are very flexible, reducing their risk of injury.
- Be sure not to fall into the cycle of repetitive sports injuries. Let your child rest immediately after a painful injury occurs. Also, give your child a two-month break each year from their specific sport.
- Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration.
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