Because children spend so many hours a day in school or child care settings, one of your biggest parenting challenges is to stay up-to-date on what’s going on there, including how it affects your child’s health and well-being.
Of course, you should talk to your child daily about what’s happening at school academically and socially. Who are her friends? Who does she eat lunch with? Where and what does she eat, in the school cafeteria and from vending machines? Does she share food with friends, perhaps exchanging the sack lunch you’ve prepared with a friend’s lunch?
In a growing number of schools, children can use a school debit card to buy lunches and snacks, with parents adding monetary value to the card every week or month. If your child uses one of these cards, how closely are you keeping track of how she’s spending the money?
If those funds are disappearing too quickly, your child may be overeating and perhaps making poor nutritional choices. With regularity, you need to ask her, “What did you buy with the debit card today?” If you’re not pleased with the answer, you may need to switch strategies.
For example, begin giving your child lunch money every morning so she can’t overspend on items that she’d be better off not eating.
You need to use the same hands-on approach if your youngster attends a child care center. Do you know what she’s eating there? How much physical activity is she getting?
If you think her nutrition at the child care facility isn’t optimal, pack a lunch and a snack for your child each day. When preparing sandwiches, think healthy—turkey or lean roast beef rather than bologna or pastrami. Snacks may include yogurt, applesauce, pretzels, a piece of fruit, or low-fat string cheese. For drinks, choose bottled water or have your child buy a carton of low-fat milk.
Review suggestions from different sources for healthy eating and activity levels at school and child care. Remember to monitor what your child is eating. Even if you’re having successes at home in improving her nutrition and activity level, the school environment can weaken those efforts if things are out of sync there.