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Is a Physical on Your Back-to-school Checklist?

By Kristy Warren


Families are busy shopping for school supplies as they prepare to ring in another school year, but don’t forget to add a physical to your back-to-school prep! Well visits play a key role in keeping your child healthy and building a positive relationship with their family physician.


Your healthcare provider can also share helpful tips for how to ease your kids back into a school-year bedtime routine, tips for a balanced lunch, and how to adjust their backpack for a safe, comfortable fit.

Dr. Barry Clark, MD, Experienced Local Pediatrician at Laurel Pediatrics in Wellsboro, PA

Local pediatrician Barry Clark, MD of Laurel Pediatrics shares his back-to-school wellness checklist in a short video below to help every family get a healthy start.


Dr. Clark explains how to:

  • Ease kids back into their school-year routine, including sleep and meal schedules

  • Harness the power of a balanced breakfast each morning to fuel your kids' learning

  • Adjust backpacks for a safe, comfortable fit 

  • Set up a physical and why seeing a doctor when your child is well is so important

Nutritious food, plenty of sleep, and getting into a consistent routine all play a role in making sure your child is ready to take on their school day. Watch the video below to hear helpful tips from pediatrician Dr. Barry Clark on giving your child a healthy start:


Enough sleep is critical to your child's health, ability to learn, and energy levels, and children's growing bodies need more sleep than adults. Children between ages six and twelve generally need 9 - 12 hours of sleep each night while pre-teens and teens generally need 8 - 11 hours. Every child is unique, so their sleep needs may vary from the general recommendation above; if you suspect your child is getting too little or too much sleep, talk to your doctor for personal guidance. 


It’s easy for sleep schedules to shift with summer's longer daylight hours, especially when you factor in vacation, summer camps, sleepovers, and family movie nights. The early start to a school day can be a hard wakeup call after later bedtimes, so help your kids work back into their regular “school night” sleep schedule gradually before school starts. Slowly move their bedtime earlier each night over a few weeks to help make the transition easier.


To help kids sleep, switch off screens at least an hour before bed. Set a firm bedtime to help you re-establish their school routine. 




Lugging too many things at once or wearing a heavy backpack improperly can lead to back and neck pain, poor posture, strained muscles, and headaches. Encourage kids to use their locker, desk, or cubby to avoid carrying all their books or supplies at once. Lighter backpacks mean less risk for strain, soreness, or injury.

To get the right fit, choose a backpack with multiple compartments to carry weight more evenly and select a backpack with a padded back panel / straps to avoid uncomfortable rubbing or poking. Adjust backpack straps to fit snugly and ensure your child always uses both backpack straps to avoid placing weight on one shoulder. Center the backpack using the adjustment straps; do not use a backpack wider than your child’s torso or longer than 4 inches past their waist.

Young Student Wearing a Balanced Backpack with Both Straps Over Shoulders and Holding Parent's Hand


Keep your kids fueled for learning by packing a powerful lunch, choosing smart snacks, and teaching your child how to build a healthy school lunch when buying from school. Vegetables, fruit, and lean protein are an important part of your child’s diet. Healthy eating helps kids fight off the unavoidable influx of germs as they begin interacting with large groups of other kids and provides the nutrition they need to grow.  

Healthy Food Options for Students at School featuring vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein
Not sure what to pack? Skip highly processed snacks and go light on the lunchmeat which contains a lot of salt and other preservatives. Aim instead for a colorful lunch with fresh produce and healthy protein.
Focus on whole-grains, lean protein like beans, eggs, grilled / baked chicken breast, or seeds, packable veggies like leafy greens, carrots, or celery, and fresh fruit like berries, apples, and bananas. 
Another feel-good benefit to healthy food? Eating healthy foods has been shown to positively boost their mood! If you have a picky eater, encourage adventurous eating by being a role model, involve them in food prep, and continue to introduce them to new foods. 

Concerned about their nutrition or need personalized recommendations for your child's diet? Make an appointment with our registered dietitian for expert advice




If your child requires an emergency inhaler or epi-pen, develop an action plan with your school nurse and your child’s teachers to ensure that they are stored properly and always easily accessible. Make sure your child knows how and when to ask for help, and educate their teachers about symptoms to watch for, including when and how to use your child’s medical equipment. 


Before packing a school lunch, check if your child’s school has any allergy-based restrictions, especially anything related to nut allergies, which can be severe in children. If peanut butter is banned, try swapping in sunflower butter for your child's PB&J. If your child has food allergies, make an action plan with the school administration for lunch / snack time and educate classmates.




To ensure kids are active safely, they need to be periodically evaluated and cleared to participate in physical activities. School physicals are required for certain grades and to participate in gym class, intramural sports, after-school activities, and team sports. Make sure you receive your physician note early to avoid your child missing any of the fun.


Likewise, immunizations are required at certain ages to ensure children receive peak protection against vaccine-preventable diseases. Your child may not be able to attend school until they are up-to-date. If you have any questions about your child’s immunization schedule, call your healthcare provider to discuss.




Physicals, also known as well child checks or well visits, are an excellent opportunity for children to establish a positive relationship with their provider and avoid associating a trip to the doctor’s office with only illness or pain.


A physical exam is an opportunity to update medication lists, identify any potential health trouble early like signs of asthma or pre-diabetes, review if children are hitting their growth milestones, and assure they are capable of participating in gym or other physical activities without restrictions. The exam may include a variety of age-based health screenings like height & weight checks, immunizations, and hearing or vision screenings.

“We love it when both parents and kids come in with a list of questions they’d like to discuss,” explained Dr. Clark. Well child visits create an open dialogue to ask questions about your child’s health and get thorough answers you can trust. Building a positive and trusted relationship with your pediatrician allows kids to ask health questions they might be embarrassed to ask their parents and to know they’re getting expert, age-appropriate answers they can understand and trust.

Young Girl Listening to her Mom's Heart with Toy Stethoscope


  • Answer your and your child’s health and wellness questions

  • Get tips on age-appropriate health topics to discuss with your child

  • Assure you’re on track with recommended health screenings

  • Confirm you’re up to date with any mandatory immunizations for your child’s grade

  • Chart your family’s health and wellness goals

  • Track important physical and developmental milestones

  • Catch any potential areas for trouble fast (e.g., identifying scoliosis early makes it much easier to treat)

  • Support children as they develop healthy habits that will serve them well their whole lives


Need to a schedule a physical? From baby to big kid, Laurel Pediatrics has you covered! To make an appointment with Dr. Barry Clark and the Laurel Pediatrics team, call 570-724-7100 today!


Laurel Pediatrics is always welcoming new patients, aged newborn to 21, at their 1 B Main Street location in Wellsboro, PA. Laurel Pediatrics has been serving our area for over 35 years with convenient appointments, 24/7 after-hours care, and compassionate providers trusted by generations of families.


To learn more about our pediatric services, click here.