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Dr. Bahl’s Five Health Tips for Back to School

With the new school year just around the corner, here are Dr. Bahl’s tips for a safe and healthy return to school:

Set a daily routine.

Set and maintain regular meal and study times, and have a consistent bedtime and wake time to ensure your child starts each school day rested and ready to learn. It’s also important to have a routine for screen time. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends school-aged children should follow the four ‘M’s: Manage screen use through plans, rules and limits; encourage Meaningful screen-use to ensure screen time has positive purpose; be a good screen time role Model; and Monitor your child’s screen time activity.[1]

Encourage a healthy diet.

Children who have a healthy breakfast in the morning are able to focus and do better at school. At home or through your child’s school nutrition program, start your child’s day with a well-balanced breakfast, such as a bowl of whole grain cereal with fresh fruit.2 Avoid sugary drinks which can contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar. Water is the best way to stay hydrated. Provide your child with a nutritious lunch and healthy snacks.

Take the time to talk with your child as often as possible.

For children, going to school for the first time or starting a new grade can be stressful. On the first day of school and throughout the school year, be present and supportive by talking with your child and showing interest in their classes and activities, and asking about their feelings. These conversations are also a good opportunity to talk to your child about safety at every age, and educating them about bullying.

Choose the right backpack.

Most students use a backpack to carry school supplies, lunch and other items needed for the school day. Ensure your child uses a well-fitted backpack to help prevent back injuries. Look for a padded backpack with a wide and padded shoulder strap. When fitted properly, the bottom of the backpack should sit at the child’s hip. As a reference, the packed weight of the backpack should not exceed 20 per cent of the child’s weight.

Encourage your child to be active and safe!

Being active and keeping fit is important at all ages. Cycling to school during the autumn and spring months is a great way for your child to be active and get to school. Children should always wear a helmet when cycling, skateboarding, riding a scooter or rollerblading. Sports and activities are also an excellent way for kids to make friends and use up extra energy.


Dr. Bharat Bahl, MD CCFP, CAC, EM, is an Emergency Physician with William Osler Health System (Osler) and the Palliative Care Physician Lead at Osler’s Etobicoke General Hospital. After completing medical school at the University of Toronto, Dr. Bahl completed emergency medicine training at the University of Ottawa, and Palliative Care training at McMaster University.

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