Food for Thought: Your Child’s School Success

As a Pediatrician, I get to see kids of all ages and stages of development. Outside of parental insight and concern, few indications are as helpful as a teacher’s report on a school-aged child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. While each child is unique in their skills and abilities, all children benefit from making the most out of their educational opportunities. Parents can support and facilitate their child’s school success by providing an encouraging and nurturing environment at home.

Tip: Plan meals together!

Improve your child’s nutrition by making the most of meals and snacks. Take a look over the school’s monthly cafeteria menu schedule and plan on packing a lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat. Involve your child in packing her lunch and provide healthy options such as fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, low-fat cheese, and/or yogurt instead of chips, candy, and other high-calorie low nutrient foods. Make fruits and vegetables more appealing to your child by cutting them into snack-size wedges and spears. Set out fresh fruit, such as apple wedges with peanut butter, fresh-cut vegetables such as carrots, celery, and broccoli for a healthy after-school snack

Tip: Choose Healthy Hydration

Encourage your child to drink water, low-fat milk, or 100% fruit juice instead of soft drinks, sports drinks, or popular fruit-punch drinks. Sports drinks generally come in larger container sizes than soft drinks and a 20-ounce sports drink has nearly equal calories to a 12-ounce soft drink. A 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 120 to 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. For my pediatric patients who are already carrying extra weight for their age and height, I recommend eliminating drinks with sugar and instead encourage them to drink water, unsweetened tea, or low-calorie sweetened beverages. 

Tip: Have Family Meals

Children of all ages grow from the socialization and nutrition that comes at the dinner table. Plan ahead weekly and make time for family meals in the evening. Cut down on calories and cost by preparing and freezing a healthy meal (or two) on the weekend that can be easily reheated instead of picking up fast food on the way home from a particularly busy day of after school and/or work activity. Keep the TV off and choose not to answer the phone during mealtimes. Television decreases communication and steals opportunities from parents to learn about what their child is thinking after a day away at school. Eating together strengthens family relationships and allows regular time without distractions for your child to talk about school, friends, activities, or other things that are important in their life+

Tip: Create Good Study Habits

Encourage your child to develop good study habits. Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework by providing a part of the home that offers privacy. Establish a household rule that the TV stays off during homework time. Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do your child’s homework for him or her. If your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren’t able to help them yourself, talk with your child’s teacher about possible solutions such as a tutor that may be able to help them.

Providing healthy foods and creating a positive study environment at home are just two ways you can help nurture success at school this year. School success is an important factor in the development of a child’s self-esteem. Families who reward children with enthusiasm and warmth for putting forth their best effort ensure their steady educational progress and prepare them to use their intelligence and knowledge productively. Through awareness of individual learning styles, including the need for necessary accommodations, parents can partner with their children’s teachers and make this year the most successful school year yet.

For more health and safety tips, go to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website:


Biography—Scott Huitink, MD FAAP

Dr. Scott Huitink loves being a Pediatrician and strives to support parents in the care of their children by encouraging, educating, and providing them with up-to-date medical expertise. His passion to provide high quality, personable, pediatric care can be seen in his face-to-face visits with children, his insights provided through his Facebook Page–“Compass Peds”, and his interest in improving the well-being of the community around him. Dr. Huitink has a wide array of experience in the care of children from newborns to young adults and has been instrumental in the education and implementation of clinical standards. He is Board Certified in Pediatrics and is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and can be found seeing patients in the Nashville area at Compass Pediatrics.