As the summer once again winds down and fall is in the air, it is almost the beginning of another school year. With the arrival of school comes many things for parents to think about, like school supplies and changing schedules to name a few.

There is few more item you should also take some time to consider: proper hand washing and healthy foods.

The beginning of the school year seems to bring a new round of colds or flu, which pass thoroughout the school population. Keeping hands clean is the easiest way to keep from getting sick and from spreading germs.

As your child is getting ready to go back to school it’s a good time to sit down with your children and discuss hand washing. Talk about when and how long your child should wash their hands and why it so important to wash well.

Many students miss days of school due to colds and flu. One way to reduce missed school days is through proper hand washing.

Proper hand washing is quite simple. It takes only 20 seconds of good scrubbing with warm water and soap. Good scrubbing includes friction, which is even more important when warm water is not available. When scrubbing hands together hands should feel warm, and don’t forget between fingers, thumb and fingernails. When through, make sure to dry hands off well since bacteria and germs love to grow in moist environments.

There are so many reasons to stop and wash our hands. Most know it is especially important to wash our hands after using the restroom. We also need to wash our hands before eating, before preparing food, after playing with our pets, changing diapers, sneezing, coughing and anytime hands are visibly dirty.

Germs can enter our bodies through our eyes, nose and mouth, often transferred from our own hands. Most of us think about how clean our hands are before we use them to eat. We also need to think about our hands before rubbing our eyes or noses. The majority of us don’t usually consider this type of germ transfer. Knowing all the appropriate times when to wash our hands is very important in keeping the family healthy.

Eating healthy foods is also an important part of staying healthy. Research supports that healthy, active kids are better learners — performing better on tests, more focused in class, behaving better, are absent less and have higher self-esteem.

If you’re looking for some ideas for quick healthy snacks for kids to take to school checkout www.foodhero.org for more recipes like the peanut butter cereal bars and baked apple chips.

If your child’s school only allows commercially prepared and prepackaged items be offered at classroom events and celebrations, try store-purchased ingredients that teachers could use to prepare a simple recipe or students could use to assemble a healthy snack in the classroom.

Kids love being involved in making their own snack. Try making food art with fruits and vegetables. Yogurt parfaits, like the Food Hero super sundae, are always a hit. If your teacher allows, try doing a smoothie party and bring in your blender with the packaged food and prepare smoothies in class.

Prepare your children for a great school year by talking with them about proper hand washing and providing them with healthy food. With these two strategies your child will be off to a healthy productive school year.

Mandy Hatfield is the Nutrition Education Program Instructor for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. Mandy can be reached by e-mail mandy.hatfield@oregonstate.edu or phone at 541-672-4461.

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