Published on August 04, 2022

Doctor measuring child.

Prepare your young child for the upcoming school year

It’s vital to ensure that your child attends school in good health and is fully vaccinated. A before-school physical allows you to ask your health care provider about your child’s development, their physical, behavioral and emotional health, and their language, cognitive and motor skills.

Your provider may be a physician or an advanced practice provider. Advanced practice providers deliver quality care similar to their physician colleagues. They use their training and clinical expertise to emphasize disease prevention and wellness, and to provide screenings and recommendations, including prescriptions, if needed. Many offer same-day or next-day appointments.

“Help prepare your child for the visit before you go to the clinic,” said Carrie Lapow, APNP, an advanced practice nurse practitioner with ProHealth Medical Group. “Explain that they will talk with a nurse or doctor who wants to help them stay healthy. Make the discussion conversational and ask them to think about a question or two for the day of their visit.”

Lapow recommended explaining to children that they will learn how much they have grown, get to see medical equipment, and also receive a check-up and shots that protect them, their friends and classmates from getting really sick.

Their provider will look in their ears, mouth and nose, listen to their heart as they breathe, and press gently on their tummy. They will get to jump, play a balancing game and take stickers home. Their shots will be quick and feel like a pinch.

At the clinic, your provider will talk with you about your child’s medical and immunization history and ask about any significant changes in their health, behavior, skills and daily routines. It’s a good time to bring up any planned changes, such as a new home, new school, or change in parenting or child care routines.

Lapow suggests taking these steps to help a young child prepare for school:

  • Walk around the school grounds and play on the playground before the school year starts.
  • Visit the door the child will enter and exit.
  • Try to arrange for a tour of the school and show your child the hallway, classrooms and bathrooms they will use.
  • Introduce your child to their teacher. This can be done online.
  • Talk with your child about a typical school day, who they will see and what they will do and learn.
  • Gradually adjust your child’s sleeping and waking schedule a week before school starts. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 10 to 13 hours of sleep for children ages 3 to 5 and 9 to 12 hours for ages 6 to 12.
  • Establish a school-day breakfast, hygiene and clothing routine in advance. Have fun practicing it once or twice.
  • Talk to your child about plans for school lunch. Prepare lunch with them as if it were a school day, or talk about what they might choose to eat in the school cafeteria.
  • Ask your child to select a family photo and encase it on the interior of their backpack, where they can view it at school.
  • Talk about playground safety and social behavior together.
  • Discuss you family’s backup plan for a different caregiver to pick up your child from school if needed. Establish a safety code word or phrase together.
  • Revisit hand-washing and other safety lessons as often as needed.
  • Plan clothing choices with your child for two school days, allowing them to make final choices on the first day of school.
  • Practice talking about what happened at school.

These preparations will help your child look forward to school, which will help ensure that things go smoothly. Your support is critical to your child’s health and academic and social success.

If your child has not adjusted to school within four to six weeks or has any changes in appetite, exercise, sleep or behavior, talk to your health care provider.