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Two Ways to Help Your Child Do Better in School

As parents, we all want our children to do well in school. Here are two things you can do to help boost your child’s memory and attention span.

1. Ensure Your Child Gets Enough Sleep

Here’s why quality sleep is important:

  • Improves memory and learning — so important in school-aged kids.
  • Supports your child’s physical growth.
  • Contributes to your child controlling emotions and behavior.

Even getting one hour less sleep can cause:

    • Difficulty controlling emotions and behavior.
    • Decreased ability to remember what has been learned.
    • Increased risk of obesity.
    • Changes in hormones that affect feeling full, so your child will feel hungrier the next day.

So, How Much Sleep is Enough?

      • Ages 1-3 — 11-12 hours plus a nap
      • Ages 3-6 — 11-12 hours, plus a nap if needed
      • Ages 7-10 — 10-11 hours
      • Ages 11-16 — 9-9 ½ hours

Mom, dad and other adults — 7-8 hours

What’s a Good Bedtime?

Here’s a chart of bedtimes and when a child should get up in the morning.

Wake-up time

6:00 am 6:15 am 6:30 am 6:45 am 7:00 am 7:15 am 7:30 am



5 6:45 pm 7:00 pm 7:15 pm 7:30 pm 7:30 pm 8:00 pm 8:15 pm
6 7:00 pm 7:15 pm 7:30 pm 7:30 pm 8:00 pm 8:15 pm 8:30 pm
7 7:15 pm 7:15 pm 7:30 pm 8:00 pm 8:15 pm 8:30 pm 8:45 pm
8 7:30 pm 7:30 pm 8:00 pm 8:15 pm 8:30 pm 8:45 pm 9:00 pm
9 7:30 pm 8:00 pm 8:15 pm 8:30 pm 8:45 pm 9:00 pm 9:15 pm
10 8:00 pm 8:15 pm 8:30 pm 8:45 pm 9:00 pm 9:15 pm 9:30 pm
11 8:15 pm 8:30 pm 8:45 pm 9:00 pm 9:15 pm 9:30 pm 9:45 pm
12 8:15 pm 8:30 pm 8:45 pm 9:00 pm 9:15 pm 9:30 pm 9:45 pm

Did you know?

People who get less sleep have MORE difficulty falling asleep! Kids who are overtired are more irritable, and it’s more difficult for them to get to sleep.

Something to consider

Limit screen time. Getting less sleep is often associated with watching TV and smartphone use.

2. Make sure your child eats a high protein, low-sugar breakfast every day

What your child eats can affect the whole day.

A high-sugar breakfast can cause sugar peaks and then sugar crashes, which result in low energy, irritability and hunger. All this can negatively affect your child’s learning and behavior.

Eating high-protein, high-fiber meals causes kids to feel fuller, so they eat less. With a high-protein, high-fiber diet, kids also avoid those sugar spike and crashes.

We recommend avoiding low-protein, high-sugar breakfasts such as:

      • Most cereals — moderately or highly sweetened
      • Pop Tarts
      • French toast
      • White bagel
      • Juice
      • Instant flavored oatmeal
      • Granola bars
      • Pancakes
      • Muffins, donuts
      • Sweetened yogurts

Unfortunately, a lot of people eat these foods in the morning. But don’t worry! A high-protein and high-fiber breakfast with low sugar doesn’t have to take long, and it can be quite tasty.

Quick breakfast ideas — 5 min. or less!

Serve one of these items with peanut butter and a glass of milk:

      • Wheat toast
      • Wheat waffle
      • Wheat English muffin
      • Wheat bagel

Or combine these tasty options:

      • Apple
      • A few pieces of cheddar cheese
      • A handful nuts like walnuts, almonds

Other good options to combine:

      • Eggs (hard boiled eggs can be made days before)
      • Wheat toast
      • Milk

Here are some easy, healthy recipes:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Shake

1 cup milk
1 banana
2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
4 pieces ice (optional)

Gym Rat Smoothie (adapted from Oh She Glows Cookbook)

1 cup milk
2 tbsp rolled oats
2 dates
1-2 tbsp peanut butter
¼ tsp cinnamon and vanilla extract

Cheerful Chocolate Smoothie (adapted from Oh She Glows Cookbook)

1 cup milk
1 spoon avocado or Greek yogurt
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp vanilla
2-3 pitted dates
Pinch salt
2-3 ice cubes

Guidelines for cereal — select cereals:

      • With whole grain as the first ingredient.
      • Where sugar is NOT in first two ingredients.
      • With at least 4 gms of dietary fiber in each serving.

Examples of healthy cereals: Kashi Go Lean Crunch, Post Grape Nuts, Shredded Wheat.

Here’s good news: you can start helping your child follow these two steps today. If you have questions about your child’s sleep patterns or diet, visit with your health care provider.

Meet the Author

Soniya G. Shah, DO is a pediatrician at Aurora Health Center in Kenosha, WI and Gurnee, IL.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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