Back-to-School Can Inspire Healthier Routines

It’s the time of year again when children transition from long, leisurely days to bedtimes and schedules.

Healthy kids learn better, and that doesn’t stop with carrot sticks instead of chips in their lunch boxes. According to the Colorado Department of Education, health risk behaviors such as substance abuse, violence, physical abuse, and an unhealthy processed diet are consistently linked to academic failure and affect students’ school attendance, grades, test scores, and ability to pay attention in class.

Parents can take an active role in their child’s health. Students can also participate in their own wellness. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers the following suggestions:

For Parents:

  • Be involved in school health activities. Attend classes on health topics when possible, volunteer to support health activities, communicate with the school about health issues and policies, and reinforce lessons taught at school.
  • Help your school implement a wellness policy that focuses on nutrition education, foods and beverages sold at school, physical activity, and physical education.
  • Ask the school to provide educational opportunities to learn about the connection between health and academic achievement.
  • Join a group, such as a Parent Teacher Association or school wellness council, that helps support a healthy school environment.

For Students:

  • Participate in a community or student-led health-related committee.
  • Learn why eating healthy and staying active is important and share it with classmates.
  • Form or join small groups for physical activity before or after school or on weekends. [2]

WSCC Model

The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC Model) is a student-centered framework for addressing health in schools. It emphasizes the role of community support for the school, connections between health and academic achievement, and the importance of evidence-based school policies and practices. It encompasses all aspects of community health, including students, educators and support staff, families, and the community at large. [3]

The 10 components:

  • Physical education and activity
  • Nutrition environment and services
  • Health education
  • Social and emotional climate
  • Physical environment
  • Health services
  • Counseling, psychological, and social services
  • Employee wellness
  • Community involvement
  • Family engagement [3]

Importance of Sleep

Getting consistent sleep is vital for children and adolescents whose brains are developing. Without enough sleep, students can have problems not only with attention, memory, and problem-solving. It can also contribute to emotional issues and behavior problems that can impact the classroom and home. [4] recommends 10-13 hours for preschoolers (including naps), 9-12 hours for school-age children, and 8-10 hours for teens. [5] A poll reported by the Sleep Foundation showed data indicates more than 57% of middle schoolers and 72% of high school students weren’t sleeping enough based on age guidelines. Common causes include an inconsistent sleep schedule, excessive use of electronic devices, sleep disorders, or other health conditions such as ADHD, autism, depression, and anxiety. [4]

The National Education Association reported several studies that found compelling reasons for schools to push their start times up to an hour later, recommending that schools not start before 8:30 a.m. One study from Seattle found students slept an average of 34 more minutes than average each night and had final grades that were 4.5 percent higher compared to schools that didn’t make the change. [6]

The review cited one of the study’s co-authors who acknowledged that later start times can be a significant policy shift, but that K-12 teachers also benefit. [6]

Food for Thought

Keeping children active and well-fed is important for both parents and schools. Between 2017 and 2020, the obesity rate was 19.7 percent, affecting about 14.7 million children and adolescents. [7]

In Conclusion

If you’ve gotten a little off track during the summer, back to school may be a good time to revisit a routine – or start a new one!


  1. Health and Wellness. CDE. (n.d.).
  2. Health and academic achievement – centers for disease control and … (n.d.).
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, October 15). Whole School, whole community, Whole child (wscc). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  4. Can school performance be improved with good sleep?. Sleep Foundation. (2023, March 1).
  5. Gavin, M. L. (Ed.). (2021, January). Kids and sleep (for parents) – nemours kidshealth. KidsHealth.
  6. Walker, T. (n.d.). Later school start times more popular, but what are the drawbacks?. NEA.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, May 17). Childhood obesity facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.,14.7%20million%20children%20and%20adolescents