Jenny Mathews, contributing writer

Encouraging the development of a few smart habits is a great way to give your child a head start to success in school. When these habits are already in place, there is more room in your child’s life for creativity and play.

1. Read every day. Reading for a certain amount of time every day is a habit that has many long-term benefits. Reading reduces stress, encourages conversation and creativity, improves memory and is an active mental process. With this habit in place, children are better able to transition to higher education reading requirements.

2. Get enough sleep. There have been many studies explaining the importance of a good night’s sleep for performance, focus and overall wellness. One study (Wolfson and Carskadon) showed a direct correlation between students’ sleep and their grades. Struggling students slept an average of 25 minutes less than A/B students and also reported a greater likelihood of depressive mood and poor sleep/wake behaviors (being able to fall asleep quickly, sleepiness during the day, etc). “The way [students] sleep critically influences their ability to think, behave and feel during daytime hours.” A good amount of sleep on average for an 8 year old is 10.5 hours a night.

3. Practice good hygiene. When we are clean, we are confident! Good hygiene habits reduce illness and anxiety, but can be harder to develop in an older child, so start while they’re young. Encourage your children to wear clean clothing, clean their face, hair, teeth, bodies and hands as well. Make wearing clean underwear and socks an everyday priority. Feeling clean reduces anxiety for students at school, especially in pubescent age groups.

4. Organize. I have found organization to be a habit/skill that not every kid takes to no matter how much you encourage it. However, in Franklin-Covey’s 7 Habits for Highly Effective Students, organization seems to be a reoccurring theme behind each habit for success. As parents, there are a few easy ways we can help our children organize their lives. In the evenings, our family does “sign off and set out” where we make sure homework is done, handout papers are signed and clothing is set out. Try to lay out the next day’s schedule before bed, even if your child’s room or backpack is a mess and they don’t seem motivated to do anything about it, you can promote an organized mind.

5. Good food = good focus. My mom drilled this habit into my head, “Eat a nutritious breakfast! It’s the most important meal of the day!” Now I can see just how right she was. Sometimes it’s hard to send kids off in the morning, but knowing they have had a decent breakfast helps ease my mind. Planning breakfast the night before is a great way to combat a chaotic morning and the temptation to throw together whatever is easy and convenient. Greek yogurt, eggs, whole grains, greens and fruits are brain foods that will aid focus and keep kids full until lunch.

It’s amazing how simple habits like these can lay a foundation for success, and the best place to start is where you are now. If only one or even none of these things is already a part of your routine, set a goal to start with one or two and begin to see the benefits of good habits for your whole family.