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Rested, Healthy, and Focused Kids: Hannah's Habits for Back to School

Hannah Dare in the kitchen of Organico Cafe

With two young kids, Hannah Dare, co-owner of Organico, has developed loads of tips for helping kids transition from summer holidays into the new school year.

Getting their Sleeping Schedule Back on Track

To keep her 10-year-old daughter and her almost-seven-year-old son happy and healthy throughout the school year, Hannah’s main focus is to promote high-quality sleep.

‘Sleep is the no. 1 factor for immunity, for concentration, for mental health,’ Hannah explains, ‘but with so much to pack in before the start of school, transitioning from summertime sleep habits to term time is really tough.’

Hannah strives to begin transitioning the kids’ sleep schedule to earlier bedtimes and wake-up times a week in advance. This requires ‘having a good bedtime routine. We wind down with stories and stay away from anything that makes it harder to fall asleep, especially screens.’

Dealing with Back-to-School Anxiety

Thankfully, back-to-school nerves aren’t a big issue for Hannah’s kids, but she does have a few tips for soothing children who experience anxiety: ‘Essential oils can be very effective. Rubbing some of the Frankincense Relaxation Blend on a child’s chest at bedtime can soothe them. Frankincense also promotes good dreams and lessens the chances of nightmares and anxiety occurring during the night.’

Hannah also recommends Lavender essential oil—a few drops in a carrier oil on the wrists or hands, especially for a child who sleeps with their hands close to their face, helps calm the nervous system and reduce stress with each inhalation. Even the simple act of administering the oils can become a peaceful bedtime ritual that helps a child unwind and mentally prepare for bed.

Hannah’s final suggestion for using essential oils to soothe an anxious child is to move a diffuser into the bedroom. Let it run pre-bedtime and fill the room with soothing scents such as ylang ylang, vetiver, frankincense, lavender, and clary sage.

Helping Them Conquer Homework

‘It’s so important to limit sugary snacks around homework time,’ Hannah says. ‘It’s very hard to get a child to concentrate with sugar in their systems.’ She also keeps her kids on a brain-boosting source of kids’ Omega-3 (whether it’s Eskimo Kids or Somega) which she’s noticed makes a difference in their ability to stay focused while doing homework.

Supporting a Healthy Immune System

Hannah takes a holistic approach to supporting her children’s immune systems: ‘I look after their sleep and exercise, I limit their intake of sugar, and I try to give them a really good range of vegetables—as many as I possibly can.’

At this time of year, she also keeps them on a preventative dose of vitamin D3 —‘especially since it wasn’t a great summer and we haven’t had a chance to build up our stores of D3’—and vitamin C as they head back into crowded rooms.

And when her kids come into contact with a sick classmate or family member, she likes to give them olive Leaf or elderberry—both of which are antiviral—to help them from falling sick as well.

Hannah believes in the importance of paying attention to dental hygiene. ‘If there’s a tooth in their mouths that isn’t well and at risk of an infection,’ she says, ‘it can put a lot of pressure on the immune system. I monitor their breath which is often the first clue that something isn’t right.’

To encourage healthy dental hygiene, Hannah lets her kids chew a piece of xylitol gum on the way to school: ‘They love chewing gum, and the xylitol helps inhibit the bacteria that feed on sugar. Then they’re starting their day with something that’s good for their teeth.’

See all kids' health products here.

Healthy Breakfast Ideas

‘I try not to give the kids sugar at breakfast,’ Hannah says. ‘It can be very hard because we’re programmed to eat sweet things in the morning. But I’ve found that you can’t beat porridge made from Irish oats.”

For protein, she gives her kids peanut butter—which they only have at home because of the nut ban in schools—to stir into their porridge. ‘Organic applesauce makes for another great stir-in—it’s amazing for the microbiome and helps relieve constipation.’

Read about the study that shows that organic apples have an amazingly diverse and balanced bacteria community here.

Along with the porridge, Hannah puts out fresh fruit and a small bowl of nuts and raisins. The kids can grab a handful from the bowl as they go off to finish getting ready. The protein from the nuts and peanut butter balances a breakfast that would otherwise be mostly carbohydrates.

The drink Hannah serves with breakfast is water. It’s all about rehydration first thing in the morning.

After-school Snacks

Just like at the start of the day, Hannah serves low-sugar foods to her kids when they get home: ‘Peanut butter sandwiches made with whole grain bread; nuts (again, they’re a great source of protein but banned in schools); whole grain oatcakes with cheese and apple.’

Hannah has also seen her kids enjoy a ‘snack platter’ with carrot and cucumber sticks, sliced apples, cheese, and lightly salted popcorn. ‘It’s a little bit of everything so they get the fun of choosing what they want.’

And Hannah was thrilled to discover that the very same toasted soy sauce seeds her kids didn’t like on salads, they loved eating when served in a bowl on their own. ‘They don’t like things combined, or too many things going on at once.’

Hannah makes the soy sauce seeds with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. She toasts the seeds in a dry pan (don’t walk away, they burn easily) then sprinkles on a small amount of soy sauce and serves them while they’re still warm. The kids love them because they’re salty; Hannah loves them because they’re nutritious.

More on Kids’ Health

Read more about supporting the wellness of your children in our blog posts Let’s Keep Our Kids Healthy this School Year - Here’s How and How to bring relief to a child affected by eczema.

And remember, we’re here to help! Talk to us in the shop or email us (info@organico.ie) with any questions you have about promoting the health of your child.

Here’s wishing you and your kids a happy and healthy school year!

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