Helping Parents Prepare for Back-to-School

As the summer winds down, kids across the country are preparing to go back to school once again. Whether it's your child's first day at preschool or the start of fifth grade, there's a lot to do to prepare for the year ahead. It's especially important to ensure your kids are healthy before school starts to give them the best chance at success. If you're a parent and you feel overwhelmed by your back-to-school list, has some helpful tips and benefit information.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, children's health and nutrition are two of the most important considerations for a successful education. For example, the Department encourages the following tips:

  • Send your child to school with a backpack that weighs less than 10 to 20 percent of his/her body weight. A heavier bag can lead to long-term muscle and joint problems. Specifically, you can ensure your child uses both straps of the bag and tightens them so that it hangs close to the body.
  • Start the day with a healthy, high-protein breakfast each morning; eggs, peanut and other nut butters, and yogurt-based smoothies are good, low-cost food options.

In addition to these tips, it is recommended that parents schedule a routine physical at your child's doctor's office. Most schools require vaccinations and immunizations to be up-to-date before the first day of school. If you're not sure which vaccinations your state or school system requires, you can search by state using the U.S. Center for Disease Control's (CDC) School Vaccination Requirement reports . You can also view the recommendations for vaccinations and immunizations for children, preteens, teens, and adults using these vaccine schedules.

If you have children under the age of 19 and have an annual household income below the maximum household income requirements, you may also be eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). With SCHIP, you can receive health coverage. All states provide immunizations and well-baby/well-child care at no cost. There's no enrollment period for SCHIP, and you can apply at any time through your state. For specific information about SCHIP in your state, including steps to apply, please visit and choose your state from the drop-down list.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), administers several programs that provide healthy food to children. These programs help improve the health and nutrition of kids that participate in school meal programs, such as the School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. School lunch and school breakfast programs make nutritionally balanced meals available to children as part of their regular school day. Children qualify to receive free or low-cost meals while they attend school (high school and under) if their families' household incomes meet the current income eligibility guidelines. You can learn more about child nutrition programs in your state by looking up using USDA's Child Nutrition Programs page.

For month-by-month tips, check out the U.S. Department of Education's Countdown to School Success toolkit. Don't forget to visit and use our Benefit Finder to find other programs that can help you and your family throughout the school year!