October is National Dental Hygiene Month

Did you know tooth decay (cavities) is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States? Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning.

  • About 1 of 5 (20%) children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • 1 of 7 (13%) adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • The percentage of children and adolescents aged 5 to 19 years with untreated tooth decay is twice as high for those from low-income families (25%) compared with children from higher-income households (11%).

The good news is that tooth decay is preventable. Fluoride varnish, a high-concentration fluoride coating that is painted on teeth, can prevent about one-third (33%) of decay in the primary (baby) teeth. Children living in communities with fluoridated tap water have fewer decayed teeth than children who live in areas where their tap water is not fluoridated. Similarly, children who brush daily with fluoride toothpaste will have less tooth decay.

Promote dental hygiene and National Dental Hygiene Month by inviting a local dentist to speak at an upcoming meeting or work with school administrators on a school wide rally. Find more oral health information at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

September 20 is National School Backpack Awareness Day

Backpacks that are too heavy or worn incorrectly can cause problems for children and teenagers. Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints which can lead to more severe back, neck and shoulder pain as well as posture problems. However, when used correctly they are a good way to carry the necessities of the school day. They are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles.

When selecting a backpack, a few items to look for:

  • The correct size for your child. It shouldn’t be wider or longer than your child’s torso or hang more than 4 inches below your child’s waist.
  • Wide padded shoulder straps to prevent from digging into shoulders.
  • Two shoulder straps and multiple compartments help distribute the weight equivalently.
  • A lightweight backpack is best so there isn’t additional weight from the backpack itself. Recommended guideline is the backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of the child’s weight.

To help prevent injury encourage your child to use both straps, tighten the straps so it is close to their body, use both knees when bending, and only carry necessary items at one time. Remember, the more space there is to fill, the more likely your child will fill it.

9 Back to School Pro Tips

This article was originally published on the US Department of Education’s Home Room blog by Dorothy Amatucci. The photo is copyright 2015 by Geoff Livingston under Creative Commons license, provided and modified by Illinois PTA.

Back to school time can be a hectic time for both you and the kiddos. These are some of our best back to school tips to help ensure this school year gets off to a great start!

  1. Visit the school. Walk or ride the route your child will take and make note of school patrols, crossing guards and high traffic areas along the way. Talk to your kids about NOT talking to strangers and find out what, if any, policies your child’s school has regarding early arrivals or late pick-ups. Learn about the school’s entrance and exit policies. Then, if you can, pop in and check out what the inside of the school looks like.
  2. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher and ask him or her about the preferred method of communication. (Some teachers are active on email and social media, while others prefer the phone or in-person meetings.)
  3. Make homework a priority. Make homework time a daily habit. Find a quiet and consistent place at home where your child can complete his or her homework. If your child is having difficulty with his or her homework, make an appointment with the teacher sooner rather than later.
  4. Prepare a study area. Set up a special place at home to do school work and homework. Remove distractions. Make it clear that education is a top priority in your family: show interest and praise your child’s work.
  5. Take charge of TV time. Limit the time that you let your child watch TV, and when you do decide to do TV time, make it a family affair. Talk together about what you see and ask questions after the show ends.
  6. Get everyone to bed on time. During the summer, children aren’t always on a schedule, which is understandable. But, proper rest is essential for a healthy and productive school year. Help your kids get back on track sleep-wise by having them go to bed earlier and wake up earlier at least a week in advance of when school actually starts.
  7. Make healthy meals. Let’s face it – no one can concentrate when they’re hungry. Studies show that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches do better in school. Fix nutritious meals at home, and, if you need extra help, find out if your family qualifies for any child nutrition programs, like the National School Lunch Program.
  8. Get a check up. It’s a good idea to take your child in for a physical and an eye exam before school starts. Most schools require up-to-date immunizations, and you may be asked to provide paperwork showing that your child has all the necessary shots and vaccines. So, check your state’s immunization requirements. And, always keep your own copies of any medical records.
  9. Plan to read with your child every day. Make a plan to read with your child for 20 minutes every day. Your example reinforces the importance of literacy, and reading lets you and your child explore new worlds of fun and adventure together.

 

Helping Your Child Cope with the First Day of Kindergarten

Photo © 2012 by Lesley Show under Creative Commons license.

The first day of kindergarten is a big transition for your child. Some children are excited and ready to go, perhaps because they finally get to do what their big brother or sister has been doing. Others can find it a source of worry and fear.

Edutopia has an article about how to ease your child’s kindergarten fears. The article addresses five key steps you can take, and has several strategies for addressing each one. The five are:

  1. Practice saying goodbye.
  2. Learn the lay of the land.
  3. Address your child’s concerns directly.
  4. Establish a goodbye ritual.
  5. Keep your eyes open.

The article notes that it is important to watch for an increase in confidence and a diminishment of worries as they become more comfortable with the changes. Check out the full article to learn which strategies might help your child have a smooth transition to kindergarten.