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Backpack hacks: your list of essentials

Cityline | posted Thursday, Aug 27th, 2015

Apart from the notebooks and binders, what else does your child need to have packed when walking through the classroom door? These backpack essentials are items you might not think of at first, but can be incredibly useful for your child throughout the year. Keep in mind that you don’t want to overload the backpack to the point where it gets too heavy! Look for the following items in travel-sized packages, and bring your kids with you when you shop so they can pick out their favourite colours.

Tissues: Not only are tissues great for cold season, they can also be used for cleaning up spills or when your child’s allergies act up. Look for travel packs at your local drugstore or grocery store.

Hand sanitizer: Everyone knows that germs spread quick, especially at school. Apart from making sure your kids are washing their hands, give them a travel-sized hand sanitizer for the bus or for field trips.

Pencil case: This one is inevitable for school! Make sure you aren’t forgetting a pencil sharpener or extra lead if need be.

Emergency change: It might be a good idea to pack an emergency change pouch, in case your child runs out of bus tickets or forgets their lunch at home.

Hair elastics: Extra hair elastics are useful for pulling your hair back for gym class, keeping together loose Tupperware, or as a makeshift key chain in case your child’s breaks.

EpiPen: If your children have allergies, make sure they have an EpiPen on hand, or any other medications they may need to take at school.

Water bottle: Drinking water is important for your daily health! Pack a water bottle for your child to help promote drinking water regularly (plus, a reusable bottle is the best choice for the environment!).

Do you have a backpack essential not listed here? Post it in the comments below!

10 healthy school lunch ideas

Today's Parent | posted Tuesday, Aug 25th, 2015

This lunch combines two of kids’ loves: waffles and bacon for one surprising sandwich. When packing, place pieces of waxed paper or foil between all layers to keep them fresh and wrap sandwich in parchment. Pack mayo separately in its own mini squirt bottle. Before eating, remove waxed paper or foil and squirt mayo onto waffle.

Get the recipe: BLT Waffle-Wich> 

Bet you didn’t know how easy it is to make your own fruit leather. With only four simple ingredients, this one is more nutritious and super fun to pack.

Get the recipe: Blueberry-Apple Fruit Leather>

For more healthy school lunch ideas click here.

Anxiety and Back to School Season

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Aug 20th, 2015

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Lots of children are excited about the return to school, but many others are not. Back to school season can be a stressful time for both parents and kids. Child Psychiatrist Dr. Monique Jericho of the Alberta Children’s Hospital says anxiety at this time of year is very common and that your child does not need to suffer from an anxiety disorder to be nervous right now.

Dr. Jericho says one of the best things parents can do to help ease a child’s anxiety is to plan ahead. Parents should be figuring out bus schedules and school start times now so that they’re not in a flap on the weekend before school starts. Dr. Jericho explains if parents are anxious and rushed your child’s anxiety will increase too. So parents preparedness really matters.

It’s also important to avoid avoiding the topic. Dr. Jericho says parents don’t want to upset their children by talking about going back to school, but in fact, it’s better to talk about it and to get the children actively involved in getting ready. Take the child to choose a backpack, get them to the grocery store to pick up their snack choices. This helps the child to visualize what their day may look like and give them little things to get excited about.

Dr. Jericho also recommends setting up a routine the child can depend on to help give them a sense of control. When your anxious child starts school, she may not know her teacher, or how the school day will progress, but if she knows exactly what will happen when school is finished that will help her through the day. So just like many adults like a sense of control, so do children.

And parents need to remember overcoming back to school anxiety is a big part of their emotional development. Your child will recognize that they were anxious, they conquered that first week of school and now they’re okay. It’s a great way for your child to understand they can cope with some of the challenges life throws at them.

Save money on back-to-school shopping

Gail Vaz-Oxlade, Special to MoneySense | posted Tuesday, Aug 18th, 2015


Shop the sales

Make your dollar go a lot further by gathering up the flyers and doing a little prep work. Involve the kids by giving them a budget for their school supplies and having them figure out how they’ll spend their money for pens, paper and all the other stuff they’ll need.

Do an inventory 
Make a list of what your child has and what he needs before you head out to the stores. If last year’s jacket still fits that’s one less expense.

Stick to your guns about what you can afford to spend
Even if she HAS to have those jeans, you can say “No.” She won’t break. You could, of course, allow her to upgrade using her own money to make up the difference between what you’re prepared to spend and the brand she absolutely has to have.

Budget for extra-curricular expenses
The extras such as sports equipment, music books and the like often get left off the list. You’ll likely have to come up with extra money during those first few weeks of school to cover all sorts of activities so don’t spend it all when you’re shopping.

Show your children your budget 
You want them to have realistic expectations before you head to the stores. Many parents hate to talk about money with their kids. And they’re dead set against disclosing the realities of their financial circumstances. Then they get ticked when their children don’t show sufficient appreciation for how hard they have had to work to provide those no-name jeans.

Well, if you don’t tell ‘em, how are they supposed to know? Being smart about money isn’t intuitive. It’s learned. And you are your children’s most influential teachers … of both good habits and bad.

Back to School Eye Exam

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Aug 18th, 2015


Back to school season is busy. Parents are buying the children new clothes, getting their hair cut and teeth checked but many parents are forgetting about an eye exam.

Optometrist Dr. Diana Monea says 80 percent of learning is visual so if a child can’t see properly they’re not learning properly. And one in four school-aged children has some kind of vision problem.  And in Alberta, all eye exams for children are free so there’s no excuse not to take them. Dr. Monea says seeing properly goes well beyond learning. It can affect their ability to play sports, participate in the classroom, seeing can well can even affect their self esteem. Imagine the child that can’t see properly wondering why everyone else can answer a question so quickly, or catch a ball so easily.

Vision also impacts career choices. If a child has always wanted to be a pilot and then finds out they have a red green defect later in life, they’ll be hugely disappointed. Whereas if a child knows early on, it’s easier to manage their expectations.

Furthermore, an eye exam can detect serious health issues. Dr. Monea says by looking at the back of the eye, optometrists can see early diabetes, cardiovascular disease or even a tumour.

In fact, Dr. Monea says she’d like to see children as early as 6 months, then again at 3 years and then before they start kindergarten and annually after that. Optometrists are looking at eye health, eye coordination, if the eyes are moving properly and if the child can see properly. And here’s the best part: for children starting kindergarten in Alberta, the Eye See Eye Learn program will provide your child with a free pair of glasses if they need them.

Dr. Monea says parents get a child’s teeth checked more often than their eyes, and teeth can be replaced! We only get one set of eyes, so let’s set our children up for a great school year and a great future.

For more information on your child’s eye exam visit this website. For more information about getting a free pair of glasses for your child in kindergarten visit this website. 

Backpack Safety

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Aug 13th, 2015


It’s that time of year again…back to school season. Parents are buying all the school supplies and often new backpacks. But physiotherapist Julia Brooks from the Alberta Children’s Hospital says there are few things you should look for in a backpack that will help protect your child’s neck, shoulders and back muscles.

Brooks recommends looking for a backpack that fits between your child’s shoulder and hips and that is generally no wider than their torso. The straps should be wide and padded, it should have chest and waist straps, and multiple pockets to help distribute the weight. And if your child wants to get a pack from an outdoor activity store, make sure to buy them a pack for school and not hiking. Brooks explains hiking packs usually have only one big pocket, whereas school packs usually have multiple pockets.

Once your child decides on a backpack, Brooks suggests showing your child how best to pack it to protect their posture. She says place heaviest items closest to the body so the core muscles can work most effectively. Parents should also monitor how heavy the backpacks get. Brooks says children should only be carrying 10-15 percent of their body weight. If kids continually carry more weight than they should, it can lead to headaches, shoulder, neck and back pain as well as poor posture. Brooks warns this pain can get worse as the child gets older, so parents should encourage good backpack habits early.


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