Girl square with pigtails and boy (2)

By Carolyn Hardin, Development Consultant

It is back-to-school time again, and Mountain Family Health Centers would like to share tips about the many things families can do to ease the transition from summertime to school time, and to create new routines that will promote health and help the school year flow more smoothly.

Mountain Family suggests using this new beginning to prioritize healthy behaviors which will ensure school success. Start this week to ensure children are eating healthy foods, receiving adequate sleep and getting some type of exercise daily. Talk to your children about school safety. This is also a great time to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider for a well-child exam and to make sure your child has all the immunizations required for his or her age. If you do not have a provider or you need help paying for your child’s care, you can call Mountain Family at 970-945-2840.

One of the most important things you can do so your children are prepared for school is to make sure they eat a healthy breakfast. Children and teens need energy to be able to learn. Breakfast should include protein, so the fuel lasts until lunch. Help your child pack healthy snacks and lunches by making sure they include fruits and vegetables. If your child eats hot lunch, you can increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables they eat by sending these for snacks or to supplement the lunch. According to the American Pediatric Association, if a child drinks just one soda per day, the risk of becoming obese increases by 60 percent, since one soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar.

According to the National Sleep Association, sleep is like “food for the brain.” The association says teens need 9.25 hours of sleep per night, and younger children need 9 to 11 hours. You can move bedtime back by 15 to 30 minutes per day now, so by the time school starts your children can get up in time, while still getting as much sleep as they need.

Exercise is essential for growing bodies. Recesses have grown shorter, and children are not made to sit so much during the day. Now is a great time to start new exercise routines for both you and your children. Take advantage of all our glorious region has to offer by walking or hiking, which costs nothing, or biking, snowshoeing or swimming together after school or work.

Safety is critical for school-age children, whether they walk, bike, are driven or take the bus to school. Remind your children about safe ways to cross streets and bike safely, particularly now when we will be doing this more during the bridge construction. Young children can be paired with older siblings or friends to walk or bike to school together.

Helmets are critical for bikers. All children need to be reminded about safe crossing of school parking lots, especially during the first few days of school when so many students are driven. Talk with your children about how to be safe while waiting for the bus by staying out of the street and how to ride safely. Lastly, parents and children alike must wear their seat belts. Make it a family rule that the car does not get started until everyone is belted in.

Unless your family has an exemption for religious or personal reasons, all children in local school districts must have all the required vaccinations ( immunizations) by Oct. 15 or they will not be able to attend school. This is a state law. All new students must bring proof of immunization when they register. If you are not sure if your child has all of the required immunizations, you can ask the school nurse or secretary to check their records against the requirements.

Immunizations can be obtained at Mountain Family Health Centers, your physician’s office or at the public health nurse in the county in which you reside. Call for an appointment: the number for Garfield County Public Health Nursing Service is 970-945-6614, Eagle County Public Health is at 970-704-2760, and Community Health Services in Aspen can be reached at 970-920-5420.

Mountain Family Health Centers wishes all students and their families a healthy, successful school year.

Carolyn Hardin is a Development Consultant for Mountain Family Health Centers and other nonprofits, with 30 years of experience in public health and human services in the Roaring Fork Valley. She can be reached at