If I were Supermom I suppose I would already have everything bought for my children’s return to school. Being mere mortal I am avoiding thinking about it. However, the reality is it will soon be time to start gathering supplies. To that end, here is some information on things that are important for your child’s physical well-being.

  1. A Properly Fitting Backpack
  2. Proper Footwear
  3. Avoiding the Back-to-School Plague
A Properly Fitting Backpack

Selecting a backpack for your child can be challenging. “But mom, I NEED to have Princess _____ (insert current Disney princess name here) or I’ll DIE!” Also, my personal favourite, “NNNNNNOOOOOOOO! Not THAT one!” yelled at a thousand decibels with no apparent justification.

There is plenty of good advice out there such as this post on CHEO’s website which encourages common sense things like padded shoulder straps, lightweight materials, and making sure the backpack isn’t too big for the child. This post from Mountain Equipment Co-op is also quite helpful, giving specific instructions on how to measure your child’s back to find the maximum length of backpack.

That all makes perfect sense to me, but the reality is, with what the school expects me to fit in the backpack of my kindergartener, there’s no way I can find something that will not be too big. Her lunch container has to fit inside the backpack. This alone dictated its size without even considering the agenda, extra sweater, second pair of mittens, sun screen, etc.   My kids are both good eaters so with the amount of food we have to send for the day combined with the encouragement of litterless lunches (of which I am a staunch supporter), this makes for one honking big lunch bag stuffed to exploding.

The end result is that she looked like this the first day of school last year.

I’m a physiotherapist and I sent my kid out the door with a backpack twice the size of her. How embarrassing. So despite the fact that we are parents who encourage our kids to do things for ourselves as much as possible, we carry her backpack into and out of the school for her. That’s just the way it has to be for now, at least until she grows into her lunch so to speak.

If your children are older and physically able to carry all the food they need for the day plus everything else they require, then by all means follow the advice in the links in this post. If not, don’t beat yourselves up parents. Just take the bag for them for now. With all that food they’re eating, they’ll eventually be big enough to carry it themselves.

Proper Footwear

When I was a kid my parents put me in “proper” shoes. Back then that meant something leather with a thick stiff sole that “supported” the foot well. It appears we have learned a whole lot more since then.

We buy almost all of our children’s footwear at Kiddie Kobbler. Yes, I realize they are not the cheapest but they really know what they are doing. They make sure the shoes fit properly (we have one child with very narrow feet and the other with very wide feet so average shoes don’t fit either of them) and they don’t sell anything that doesn’t meet current guidelines on what constitutes a “good” shoe for a child.

Here is a link to the Kiddie Kobbler web site with some very useful information about how children’s feet develop. Did you know that children’s feet are changing from cartilage to bone as they grow? This means that during this period the foot is essentially being molded into the feet they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. When you think about this, it makes sense to spend a bit more on shoes during this critical period.

Children’s feet also grow rapidly and usually in spurts. They can pretty much literally outgrow a pair of shoes overnight, so check frequently for proper fit. Kids generally don’t complain if their shoes have gotten too small. They will just curl everything up and carry on, which obviously is not good for developing feet.

Next to proper fit, the most important feature in a child’s shoe is flexibility in the right places. The objective is to allow the foot as much freedom of movement as possible. After all, we were essentially meant to be barefoot hunter/gatherers. However, today’s society means wearing shoes most of the time so we want to be certain that the shoes are not too stiff, yet not too flimsy either. Here is a handy printable guide you can take with you when shoe shopping with your kids.

So here’s the caveat. The reality for most of us is that with having to purchase outdoor shoes, indoor shoes, outdoor sandals, indoor sandals, rain boots, and winter boots for each kid at least once a year, it is not in everyone’s budget to spend big on every pair. In that case, choose wisely. We decided to invest the most in the footwear they wear the most frequently and are the most active in. For example, we went more budget-wise with the rain boots as they don’t wear those very frequently and invested more in the shoes they wear daily. After all, footwear costs more than the rest of their entire wardrobe!

Avoiding the Back-to-School Plague

When heading back into the germosphere of a school environment, the best weapons you can give your children are good nutrition and adequate sleep. Both of these factors have been proven to improve the function of the immune system. By the way, that goes for you too, snotty-nose-wiping mom.

During the summer it’s easy to get out of the usual routine of nutritious meals and regular bedtimes. In our house summer is all about adventure and new experiences so we too shirk the routine from time to time. After all, it takes a while to get the campfire to the right temperature for toasting marshmallows, and you can’t rush a s’more.

About a week before school starts though, we begin to ease into the schedule we will have to keep once that bell sounds. This takes a bit of a steel will (after all, who wants to get up any earlier than absolutely necessary) but it is definitely worth it. We do the same thing when the clocks change, easing into the time change over two or three days and the benefits definitely outweigh the short-term pain.

Experts recommend that school-aged children get 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night. It’s easy to let those numbers slowly creep down during the summer, but taking some time to get them back up before school starts will get everyone off to a smoother happier start.

As for nutrition and the dreaded lunch packing, I think we all struggle with this. Our kids are pretty good with their fruit and vegetables, but certainly things like going apple picking in the fall help them to get excited about fresh produce. Anything we can do to get them involved in the process helps.

Last but not least, don’t forget the water. Once the weather cools off we tend to be less diligent about encouraging our children to drink during the day. Hydration is also important for the body to function properly, including the immune system. So stick with that water bottle you made them tote around all summer.

Here’s to a happy healthy return to school for everyone!

We see the forest and the trees.


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