How to prepare children for a healthy start to school

Posted 2 Feb 2021.

Family getting ready for school

With West Australian kids going back to school (albeit a little delayed for some!), here are our top tips to help your child or grandchild navigate their way into a healthy and happy school year.

1. Teach them how to self-apply sunscreen

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommend that children apply sunscreen themselves under supervision as soon as they are physically able to do so. This is often from two to three years old, which means by the time they get to kindy, they could mostly do it themselves. Make sure children know how to open the tube, how much to put on, and where on their body it needs to go.

2. Know the health and wellbeing policies at the school

Are they a SunSmart or Crunch&Sip® School? What are the expectations?

3. Walk to school

It's not possible for every family all the time, but if you can, walk with your children to school. Around 64 per cent of kids are driven every day to school in Australia, according to a 2018 report by Cancer Council WA. That's a huge jump since the 1970s when only 16 per cent were chauffeured - the rest walked, rode or caught the bus.

"Walking the kids to school is a great way for families to establish healthy habits together, and if you are rushing off to work and short on time, even parking a bit further from school and walking some of the way is beneficial," says Kelly Kennington, our Obesity Prevention Manager.

"There are so many benefits of daily exercise for children - from improved concentration and better self-confidence to stronger muscles and bones. Research also suggests that physical activity helps to reduce the risk of children developing health problems in later life."

4. Be a role model

Kids are more likely to participate in healthy behaviours such as wearing a broad-brimmed hat, eating vegetables, being physically active or drinking water if they see grown ups not only doing those things, but enjoying them too.

5. Put on sunscreen before school

Make sunscreen application part of the morning routine for everyone in the household. Keep a tube handy on the bathroom counter and put it on after teeth cleaning. This will help to avoid incidental sun exposure during the trip to school, and ensure that they have at least some sunscreen on if they forget to reapply later in the day. Try putting a small tube of sunscreen in the lunchbox as a reminder to put it on again at lunch.

6. Check the hat

A good sun protective hat covers parts of the head that are vulnerable to future skin cancers, including the ears, neck and face. Make sure the hat has a wide enough brim to protect these areas (not a baseball cap!). If you have a spare hat, pack that in the bag as well. Ensuring that hats and uniform items are clearly labelled will help them be returned too.

7. Pack healthy lunchboxes

Plan for lunchboxes in your weekly shop, and put aside some time on the weekend to prepare healthy snacks and meals that are easy to grab in the morning or after school. Having healthy snacks like muesli muffins or banana cake readily accessible makes it easy for children to eat well each day.

8. Don't forget to pack Crunch&Sip® each day

Cut up some vegie sticks or pieces of fruit, or have some whole pieces available and encourage your children to pack their Crunch&Sip® each morning. Water bottles should be cleaned regularly and filled with fresh water every day. Re-fuelling with vegetables and fruit helps kids to be healthy and hydrated and to get the best out of their school day.

For more information

  • Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, schools and workplaces can play an important role in reducing the burden of cancer in our community.
  • To learn more about cancer prevention programs for your early childhood service, school or workplace please visit this page.

Found in:  News - 2021 | View all news