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First Day of School Health Checklist: What every parent should know

July 27, 2009

Experts at Seattle Children’s Hospital have put together a Healthy Child Checklist to ensure that children - and parents - are prepared for the first day of school.

Backpacks are full of fresh pencils and paper and new shoes are waiting by the door, but just because the supplies are ready for a new school year doesn’t mean that children are. Experts at Seattle Children’s Hospital have put together a Healthy Child Checklist to ensure that children - and parents - are prepared for the first day of school.

As the countdown to the first day of school begins, health and safety questions on a variety of issues surface - from vaccinations to nutrition to nerves. As children get ready to start waking up earlier and deal with anxiety about going to school, parents worry about issues like safety, illness and whether or not their child’s medication will be dispensed properly at school.

“Back to school is understandably an anxious time for parents and children alike,” says pediatrician Dr. Ben Danielson at Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in Seattle. “By taking a few easy steps, parents can remove the stress associated with back-to-school and rest assured that their children are well prepared for a healthy and productive year ahead.”

To help ease this transition, pediatric health experts at Seattle Children’s Hospital have put together a first day of school health checklist to help parents keep kids healthy and safe throughout the school year:

  • Make sure your child’s immunizations are current.
  • Start getting your child to bed at a set time a week or two before school starts.
  • 6 to 9 year-olds need 10 hours, preteens need 9 hours, and teens need about 8 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep each night.
  • Stock up on healthy snacks and lunch fixings.
  • Low-fat dressing for dipping veggies, dried fruit, nuts, low-fat yogurt, pretzels, low-fat cheese, cut veggies and fruit that is all ready to grab-and-go. Don’t forget to buy a water bottle so your child can easily drink water and stay hydrated during the day.
  • Find out if your child will have PE during the day and how much time is spent at recess.
  • Children need 60 minutes of physical activity each day, so provide time and space for them to be active after school to get a total of at least 60 minutes.
  • Figure out your child’s transportation plan and before- and after-school care, if needed.
  • If your child is over 10 and will walk or bike to school, identify a safe route and make sure they know how to walk or bike safely. If biking, make sure they have a properly-fitted bike helmet.
  • Talk to your child about what will be expected and any concerns they may have. Let them ask questions anytime.
  • Develop ground rules for your child to follow if he or she is about 11 or older and will be spending time alone at home after school.
  • Think about if friends are allowed over, cooking rules, TV and computer rules, answering the door and phone, etc. Give your child a chance to practice being home alone before the school year starts.
  • Find out the school’s rules about medicine for kids old enough to handle monitoring and treatment at school.
  • If your child is too young to self-administer, find out who handles medicines at the school and ensure they are familiar with your child’s needs.
  • Learn about emergency plans at your child’s school.
  • Work on a plan for how to deal with illness during the school year - sick children should stay home to prevent the spread of illness to others.
  • Arrange your calendar so you can spend extra time with your child the first week of school; transitions can be hard and just being together in the evenings can help.

About Seattle Children's Hospital

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Children’s has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit

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