Giving kids a head start at getting back-to-school ready

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This article was posted in Lansing State Journal. Read the full article here.

Sleep schedule changes

Ah, summer. It’s a three-month-long weekend for most school-age kids, especially regarding their sleep schedules. Kids tend to stay up later at night and wake up later in the morning during the summer months. The change is not necessarily a bad thing according to Rachel Schraft, NP at McLaren Greater Lansing Okemos Community Medical Center.

“The key is to keep the bedtime routine consistent during the summer, whatever that may be,” Schraft said.

The goal is ensuring kids get enough sleep. How much they need depends on age and activity level. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s guidelines:

  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5) need 10-13 hours.
  • School-age children (ages 6-12) need 9-12 hours.
  • Teenagers (ages 13-18) need 8-10 hours.


While kids tend to dive into summer sleep routines, shifting back to school hours can be challenging. It helps to start easing children back into a school sleep schedule about a week or two before school starts.

“It’s best when parents slowly adjust sleep schedules when heading back to school,” Schraft said. “Have your child wake up 15 minutes earlier and go to sleep 15 minutes earlier than they typically do. Continue making 15-minute shifts every few days until your child sleeps and wakes at the correct times for school.”

Kids can also benefit from good sleep hygiene or habits that will help ensure quality sleep:

  • Keep all electronic devices out of children’s bedrooms and stop screen time at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Keep the lights in the home dim toward bedtime.
  • Keep bedroom temperatures cooler.
  • Make sure children get plenty of physical activity during the day.


Keeping health in check

Many children missed recommended checkups and vaccinations during the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend getting children caught up on routine vaccinations before returning to school.

“Some uncommon diseases in the United States are still common in other parts of the world, and you don’t need to travel internationally to be exposed,” Schraft said. “Because of this, children should follow the recommended vaccine schedule to ensure they are protected.”

Kids should also stay up-to-date on flu and COVID-19 vaccines since back-to-school time coincides with cold and flu season. That means this is also an excellent time to remind kids about one of the best defenses against disease spread: regular handwashing.

Protection on the field

For children who participate in athletics, now is the time to schedule a sports physical. Physicals are typically good for one year.

“Sports physicals help us determine if it is safe for a child to play a certain sport and identify and treat any potential health risks that could lead to an injury or prohibit performance,” Schraft said. “For example, if children have frequent asthma attacks, we can adjust their medicines so they can breathe more easily when they run.”

During a sports physical, a doctor will want to learn whether a child has:

  • medical problems that run in the family.
  • existing medical problems.
  • allergies.
  • past injuries.
  • dizziness, chest pain or trouble breathing during exercise.


Getting ready to head back to class may not be every child’s idea of summer fun, but the good news is it will not make summer end any sooner.

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You’ve got questions. That’s a good thing.

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