If you believe all the hype you read in flyers and hear in TV ads, everything your kids need to head back to school can be picked up at your local big-box store. Well, don't believe the hype because three of the most important things that kids—kindergarteners, middle schoolers, and college students alike—need to stay emotionally and physically healthy during the school year don't come with price tags.
1. Yoga lessons
If you don't remember your teenage years being stressful…you don't remember your teenage years. Between the hormonal mood swings of adolescence, the peer pressure of high school, and the need to get into a good college, it's a wonder any of us made it through our turbulent teens without bleeding ulcers. So do your kid a favor and get the child into a yoga class. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston found that a 10-week yoga class was able to lower negativity, stress, and mood problems in eleventh- and twelfth-graders better than a regular 10-week PE class.
Get it for free: Most forms of yoga require little, if any, equipment, and you can often find instructional DVDs at your local library.
2. Nutrition advice
With the ever-in-flux state of school lunch programs, don't expect your kids to learn proper nutrition in the cafeteria, lest they start thinking that mashed potatoes and chocolate milk constitute a balanced meal. Don't keep foods in your home that you don't want them to eat, says Michelle LaRowe, a career nanny and author of Working Mom's 411 (Regal, 2009), and get kids involved in making their own lunches and snacks. "Put up a drawing on the refrigerator that shows healthy snacks," she suggests. Also post a list that groups foods and drinks into "all-the-time foods," "sometime foods," and "special treats" categories.
Added bonus: Obviously, healthy diets equal healthy bodies, but children benefit mentally, as well. A number of studies in the past year have suggested that kids who drink a lot of soda are more aggressive, and that children who consume high levels of artificial food dyes have behavioral issues. Another food additive that deserves no place in a healthy diet, sodium benzoate, which is used in sodas, was linked to symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).