Healthy routine for studying, eating can help children succeed in school h helps kids

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You send your children off to school with hopes that you'll get through the year without squabbles over homework, computer time or nonstop snacking. Unfortunately, good intentions aren't enough.

You need a concrete plan if you want your children to develop good study habits. And although child-development experts recommend implementing a routine well before school starts, it's not too late to point your children in the right direction.

"Consistency, clear expectations and modeling expected behavior are key parenting skills to making all this work," says Diane D. Sasser, a professor in family and child development at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.

Establish a routine that includes healthful meals and snacks, rest, recreation, study and a sensible bedtime, say the experts. Start with breakfast.

"Research has shown again and again, children who eat breakfast have more energy and manage their weight better," says Catherine Kraus, registered dietitian at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. If your child prefers cold cereal, choose a brand with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber. Top it with fat-free or 1-percent milk and a sliced banana or sprinkling of blueberries, says Kraus. Do something similar with hot oatmeal. If your child doesn't like typical breakfast fare, give him string cheese and an apple.

After-school snacks are also important, both to refuel and to make a transition from the school day. However, a snack should be a defined portion of food, such as a carton of yogurt or an apple with a slice of cheddar cheese. Snacking should have a time limit, not go on through the afternoon, Kraus says.

When to do homework is a common question, Sasser says.

"Some people feel you should start when you get home from school because it [the lesson] is fresh in the child's mind. Others feel children should have some down time. That's up to the parent and child," Sasser says.

"If your child is keyed up and needs to blow off energy, get him involved in some physical activity before tackling homework. Choose a designated study area. ... Your child knows that when he sits there, he's there to study. It's good for children who have trouble studying," Sasser says.

Although music is often a battleground, children may actually benefit from it.

"Some children can develop some correlation between music and what they're learning. They may want to listen to classical music; they may want something with rhythm," Sasser says.

Even though dinner may depend on your work schedule, try to allow two hours between dinner and bedtime so your child isn't going to sleep on a full stomach, Kraus says.

Use the non-homework time after dinner to play a game or do a project together. If you allow your child to watch television, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting all media viewing to one to two hours of high-quality programming a day.


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