School is just about here once again, and I don’t know about you but I’m wondering where my summer went. With my girls growing and changing by the minute, each summer has felt so different from the one before. And this school year will be no exception to this feeling either. With a second grader and my youngest doing preschool two days a week, this will be a very different year for us school-wise.
With each year, there’s always a bit of adjusting that happens when school is back into session. Everything from adjusting our sleep schedules to really being proactive with nutrition and our immune system. We just tend to be more relaxed in the summer and we just “go with the flow” more. But back to school can mean back to sniffles too. Having healthy habits in place over the last few years has really helped us keep viruses at bay.
Last year I shared that it was our healthiest winter yet in terms of illness. I chalk this up to a few proactive measures we take as a family. First and foremost is a regular bedtime and quality sleep. But we also include things like reducing toxins at home to eliminate body burden to keep our immune system in top notch shape.
Time away from home also means time away from our habits: where we eat *mostly* nutritiously, wash our hands frequently and use few chemicals. This can also be hard on the immune system as it puts added stress on the body. Our body can’t always differentiate between different types of stressors, and sees chemicals as something it needs to “fight off”.
This is all the more reason to take extra care at home and reduce toxins where you can and put in place healthy habits.
While I’m so excited to have more time to devote to my work, I certainly miss my girls when they’re not here. But they are definite school-lovers and cannot wait to get back to the classroom, which makes our transition easier. Here are some of the ways we’re working on keeping our home healthy for the school year.
You may have caught my IG Story last week about how I accidentally bought my oldest daughter a diaper backpack. (I actually think I may have discovered a lifehack — a backpack that won’t need to be replaced in a year!). A new backpack always feels good, and she really needed one. Last year her backpack took quite a beating, and become well-loved. I know how gross backpacks can get when they’re traveling to and from school every day. They sit on the floor at school, on the bus and sometimes house some pretty gross, soggy things.
This is exactly the reason that we have a spot for backpacks to go right away when they get home. Backpacks don’t get set on the counter tops in the kitchen, and they don’t get brought up into bedrooms. We try to keep them in our little entry hallway on a hook. I also open them up and let them dry out when they get damp from snow pants or other wet things.
Wet backpacks can breed bacteria, which we don’t want to let our kids carry around all day. We also don’t want to introduce that to our home. You also don’t want to introduce viruses to your home unnecessarily by leaving the backpack on various surfaces.
Having just a simple set of hooks by your door or a cubby that they can go into is a perfect solution to keeping them out of living spaces at home.
I hope I don’t sound like a broken record, but keeping shoes at the door and out of your house is a huge preventative measure you can take. Shoes that walk through school all day no doubt will have lots of bacteria and viruses on them. But in addition to that, schools are cleaned with chemicals and grass around schools may be treated with pesticides.
These are all things that end up attaching themselves to the bottom of your kids’ shoes and eventually make their way into your home.
By keeping shoes on a rug or tray in a particular area, you can avoid bringing these things in to infiltrate your carpets, rugs and air. This is also a helpful reminder to guests that we leave our shoes at the door, and they tend to follow suit at our home. It’s nice not constantly having to ask someone to remove their shoes.
I have a few other posts that really delve into the idea of keeping shoes at the door rather than inside your house:
REUSABLE LUNCH CONTAINERS
I don’t know if your kids are like mine, but my girls are not all too fond of the school lunches. Mostly because the fruits and vegetables just aren’t the same as fresh ones that we pack from home. And to be honest, I think I’d much prefer them to eat a lunch from home, where I know exactly what they’re puting in their bodies.
But, it’s not just about the food anymore. We know now that plastic and especially soft, flimsy, or moldable plastic can be particularly bad. These plastics have more phthalates and more chemicals than extremely hard plastics.
What’s worse is that these plastics, like lunch bags or plastic containers are sitting right on our food. If the food gets warm at all or it’s a greasier food, it quickly absorbs these toxins, even if the bags are BPA free.
Water bottles are another area you can make a healthier choice. Using a glass or metal water bottle as opposed to a plastic one is always the healthier option.
Opt for using metal or glass containers for food as well as beeswax wraps for home lunches and snacks. Another added bonus? You’ll save money by reusing these containers instead of buying boxes up on boxes of plastic bags.
This is a concept I used at home when my oldest daughter was in preschool but still taking naps. If you’ve had kids in preschool, this will definitely resonate with you, I’m sure of it.
Beds had always been for sleeping and we really did our best not to allow too much play on beds or in beds during the day. This was mostly because we didn’t want them to play in bed at night time instead of going to sleep, but after speaking with our pediatrician about my daughter’s allergies, we added another reason.
Our pediatrician told us to help with seasonal allergies, we should make sure to rinse off before going to bed after playing outside. I thought this was a great idea, especially in spring and fall when the pollen counts are higher. But then it got me thinking about those days she came home from preschool (where she played on the floor and rolled around in the large muscle room) and went to nap afterwards. I realized she was introducing viruses, dust and bacteria to her sleep area.
That’s when we decided to let her change outfits when she came home from school. Now that she’s older we don’t really do this, but if you think about what your kiddos clothes come into contact with at school, you might think about implementing this idea at your house. Especially if they come home and lay in bed when they’re done with school.
The idea of a house coat or house clothes is not a new idea either, it’s been used for quite some time by children and adults.
Getting a good night’s sleep is absolutely key when it comes to preventing illness and unneeded stress. But what’s more than just the HOURS of sleep a child gets, is the quality of sleep they get. Uninterrupted sleep will leave anyone groggy and not feeling their best. But that uninterrupted sleep also lowers the function of the immune system as well.
That being said, there are SO many ways you can promote a healthy and restful sleep — especially in kids’ rooms.
First, keep electronics out of the room completely. These electronics have electromagnetic fields that surround them, which our bodies see as stressors. When this happens the cortisol levels rise and sleep becomes very difficult. In addition to this, the color of the blue screen is confusing to our bodies as it reduces the production of melatonin in the body.
With this same thought, radios, alarm clocks, sound machines and monitors should be kept as far away from the bed as possible. These also produce EMFs and interrupt sleep and make it difficult to sleep at all.
Second, keep dust and dust mites at bay with a few simple habits. If your child has stuffed animals, you’ll want to get in the habit of washing them. If you can’t wash them, you can also put them in the dryer on the highest heat or even put them in the freezer.
Wet dusting on a weekly or biweekly basis is extremely beneficial to reducing dust. Don’t forget the tough to reach places like ceiling fans, baseboards and trim. You can read more in this post about creating a sleep sanctuary in your kids’ rooms.
Finally, avoid synthetic fabrics that have chemicals woven in either for color, scents or to stay wrinkle free. Opt for a 100% natural cotton or linen set of sheets as well as an organic comforter. It will help your child’s body by reducing the amount of chemical burden it is under at night. At night when the body is resting and recovering from the day, it’s important to avoid the use of a lot of chemicals and synthetic materials that our bodies see as stressors.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING
You know that I’m a huge fan of essential oils and that we use them every single day in our daily routine. I often talk about how I love replacing chemical products in my home with these and using them for an immune system boost. What I don’t talk about as much is using them for emotional support.
Essential Oils have been used for thousands of years for both medicinal purposes and to improve the quality of life. This study talks about the benefits of essential oils when it comes to depressive symptoms and anxiety, and shows that they are in fact beneficial.
At home, we use both rollers with essential oils in it as well as our diffuser to help promote a sense of calm in the midst of big feelings or feelings of anxiety.
Many times first thing in the morning, I want to really set the tone for the day. If you have kids, then you know the struggle is real when it comes to getting out the door on time and in a calm manner. This is why I use some of my favorite essential oils to create an uplifting or calming blend right away when we start our morning.
Another habit we’ve gotten into is using a roller right before we leave for school. Not only does it smell amazing, but it also helps with feelings of anxiety or those back-to-school-butterflies.
And there are the feelings when my kids get home from school. While most days are great, every now and then my girls hold a lot of big feelings in during the day and release them all when they get home. Working through feelings isn’t always easy, but having an essential oil blend that promotes a feeling of happiness or grounds my kids really helps.
Being able to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety is beneficial not just for emotional wellness, but also for physical wellness. We know that the body produces large amounts of cortisol when it’s under constant stress, which leads to more illness, less restful sleep and other physical repercussions.
NON TOXIC CLEANERS
My last healthy habit is one you might already be on board with — reducing toxins in your everyday cleaners. This is another source of body burden that can be easily avoided in our homes. Traditional, chemical cleaners often contain harmful chemicals and fragrances that do everything from disrupt our hormones to irritate airways.
The list of issues that cleaning products cause is pretty extensive for both adults and children, but as you might have guessed, it’s more harmful to little bodies as they are developing and growing on a constant basis.
The great thing is you can make a simple switch by purchasing a different cleaner at the store next time you’re out. I have a list of green products here that can help you make the best choice.
Another option is to make your own, if you’re up for it. You can put together a non-toxic cleaning caddy to have around your home as you eliminate toxic cleaners from your cabinets. Setting up your cleaning caddy is pretty simple and you only need a few ingredients that I’ve listed out in this post: Create Your Own Non Toxic Cleaning Caddy.
But my all-time favorite option for a toxin free cleaning switch: THIEVES! I have used Thieves for the past year and a half and I can safely tell you I have no plans to use anything else for the rest of my life. It is the most cost effective cleaner I’ve found to date and it cleans like nothing else.
Plus, can I tell you my favorite thing? The only warning this bottle contains is to drink a glass of water if consumed. That gives me such peace of mind that it’s completely safe for my kids and my fur baby to be around.