It’s time for kids to go back to school and that means changes for the whole family. Here are some guidelines to get the school year off to a good start:Get a good night’s sleep • Establish a sleep routine with a set bedtime. • Don’t allow a television in your child’s room. Studies show that a child with a TV in his room sleeps less. • Set out an outfit for the next day at bedtime. Have backpacks packed and ready to go. • Before you turn out the light, take a moment for an extra snuggle or a kiss or two. A little love can go a long way. Try to end the day on a positive note. Find homework help • Infoplease is a free reference site including an encyclopedia, dictionary, almanacs and a ‘‘Homework Center’’ that covers English, math, history, geography, science and social studies. Plus it has a ‘‘Skills’’ section to help improve study, writing, speaking and research abilities. Check out: www.infoplease.com/homework/ • Need help with homework or a school project? Discovery Education provides ‘‘Homework Help’’ to students in all grades with links to loads of sites. The links are convienently organized according to subject. Check out: http://school.discoveryeducation. com/homeworkhelp/homework—help—home.ht ml • Homework Spot offers links to Web sites grouped by grade level. Check out: www.homeworkspot.com/ • Scholastic’s ‘‘Homework Hub’’ offers free tools, tips and activities arranged according to grade and subject. In addition, it provides an online store offering Scholastic brand products. Check out: www.scholastic.com/kids/ homework/index.htm Prepare to study • Provide a quiet, well-lighted space. Let your child personalize the space with artwork. • Make sure you have all the needed supplies. Review what your child needs because things can change from year to year. • Schedule a regular time to do homework. Adapt to what works best for your child. Some work best in the afternoon; others do better after the sun goes down. • Turn off the television and limit phone calls during study time. • If your child has several assignments or tests coming up, mark them on a calendar together. • For long-term projects, help your child break down the work into manageable steps. • The general rule of thumb is that a child should have 10 minutes of homework per grade. For example, 40 minutes is about right for a fourth-grader. Pack a healthy lunch • Buy 100 percent fruit juice. The carton can be frozen to keep the lunch box cool. • Yogurt and real fruit can be blended for a wholesome drink. • Dried fruit provides energy for active kids. Raisins have lots of healthful phytochemicals. • Red, black and green grapes will add color, as well as nutrients, to the lunch bag. They also are delicious frozen. • Water is the healthiest choice. Small bottles are just right for little hands. • Keep the skin on the apple for insoluble fiber and vitamin C. • Add a little fun to the vegetables. Homemade dips can be placed in resealable containers. • Pull-apart string cheese is fun for children and is packed with calcium. • Kids love ‘‘little trees.’’ To make cauliflower a vivid yellow, saute it briefly with a spoonful of turmeric. • Buy baked snacks in large containers and portion a handful in a plastic bag to save money. Lighten the load • Find a rolling backpack. (Check with your school first; some don’t allow them.) • Frequently empty out your child’s backpack. Don’t let him or her become a pack rat. Students should carry only what they need for the day. • Beware of messenger bags: Ideally, find a knapsack that has straps on both sides and that is padded, ensuring an even distribution of weight. • Don’t let your child carry a backpack on one shoulder. • Opt for a lightweight material, such as heavy-duty nylon, rather than leather. • The backpack’s lowest point should be 2 inches above the wearer’s waist. • The heaviest books should go in the part of the pack that fits closest to your child’s back. Light items should go near the outside to reduce back strain. Connect with your child • Instead of asking ‘‘How was your day?’’ ask specific questions, such as ‘‘What did you do on the playground?’’ or ‘‘What kind of problems are you working on in math?’’ • Remember that kids might need a little extra decompression time after a long day at school. Don’t worry if they aren’t ready to talk right away. • Share information about your day. Communication is a two-way street. __________________________________ Sources: ‘‘The Truth About Back Pain’’ by Todd Sinett, Pritchard Committee for Academic Excellence.