According to Phineas and Ferb, “There’s a hundred and four days of summer vacation. Then school comes along just to end it.” Some kids are super excited about going back to school. Heck for them, it’s been an eternity since they have seen some of their friends (or it feels that way, anyway). Others might be anxious or even scared. Maybe it’s a new school and they don’t know anyone, or they have a hard time making friends. Whichever the case may be in your household, we’ve got 7 tips to help get you and your child off on the right foot for a successful school year.
1. Reset your rhythm
If your kids spent the summer indulging in a very relaxed bedtime where they stay up late most nights and sleep in every morning, it’s important to get their sleep schedules back on a set routine. Start two weeks before school with setting a bedtime and a morning routine. If they will be getting themselves up, use whatever device will be waking them up now, so they get used to hearing it. My kids loved to sleep through their alarm clocks. You have to train the brain to listen for and recognize the sound of the alarm.
Create routines that are easy for your child to follow - short, sweet, and consistent. Routine will help with bedtime struggles and aid your child in getting that much needed good night’s sleep. Children who get enough sleep (between 9-12 hours per night for this age group) have better attention spans, are typically better behaved (not moody or angry/aggressive because they are tired) and have increased learning and memory retention. Those with inadequate sleep tend to be moody, emotional, and sometimes depressed.
To create a bedtime routine, pick 3-4 activities and have your child do them in the same manner every night. This helps bring the day to a close and allows them to mentally prepare for sleep. A few ideas for your bedtime routine could include:
- Set an alarm 30 minutes before bedtime so kids can mentally prepare
- 5 minutes of silly time to unwind and get the “giggly wigglies” out
- Bedtime snack
- Taking a warm bath or shower
- Brushing teeth
- Putting on pajamas
- Turn on nightlight or white noise for kids that need them
- Bedtime story
- Singing a lullaby or bedtime song
- Pick out tomorrow’s outfit
- Pack tomorrow’s lunch and put in fridge to save time in the morning
A morning routine might include the following habits to get your kids started for the day:
- Bathing or showering
- Getting dressed and putting on shoes
- Make bed and put pajamas away
- Combing hair
- Eating a good breakfast
- Brushing teeth and washing face
- Putting supplies into backpack/bookbag
- Use bathroom before heading out the door
- Put on your happy face
2. Attend Open House/Orientation
Meet your child’s teacher(s) and tour the facility before the school year starts. This might be in person, or it could be virtual, thanks to technology. Now would be a great time to ask questions. Get the lists of school supplies, books, and technology your kids will need. Then create your list of items you need to purchase and a budget. Your list and budget will help control impulse buys when you go shopping. It’s easy to splurge on all the supplies with fun colors/patterns. Remember to get the supplies early to beat the rush and items being out of stock causing added stress. If you haven’t seen it yet, the Trapper Keeper has made its return and is the hot back to school item this year.
Pick up an item or two for the good of the classroom, such as a bottle of sanitizer or wipes. The teacher will thank you for doing so. Don’t forget to stop by the school’s health office and ensure vaccines are up to date. From the voice of experience, there's nothing like being told on the second day of school that your child can’t return until they have their vaccines updated and finding out you can’t get an appointment for a week.
3. Create a homework area
Remove distractions like TVs and video game consoles from homework areas. Repurpose and relabel plastic tubs to organize all school supplies. Use empty containers such as pringles cans and redecorate them with your child to store supplies like pencils, pens, scissors. Help your kids develop a filing system for organizing their documents for each class. Get a couple of dollar store picture frames and use them to display your child’s artwork of the week or the good grade on an assignment they are so proud of and change out as needed. Another wonderful way to organize supplies is to get an over the door shoe rack and use it to store items such as glue, stapler, crayons, colored pencils, ruler etc. Set a timer for regular breaks from homework to stretch or get a drink or water. Setting the routine for good study habits is important to start young as it will carry over into their high school and college years.
"Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow." - Anthony J. D'Angelo
4. Afterschool Activities
Do you have a plan in place for after school care? Will they be playing sports? Having tutor session? Daycare or a babysitter? Block out some fun time for your kids, whether it’s through sports or playdates but don’t overload their day, kids need quiet time too. Create a list of fun after-school activities and games to keep your kids entertained and avoid boredom.
For my kids, I have a “Mommy I’m bored” jar. This is easy to create some are fun, some items are chores. Here’s what you do:
- Find an empty jar or even a bowl can work
- Decorate the outside if you desire, mine says “Mom, Mom, Mom… I’m Bored”
- I used large craft sticks and wrote tasks on each one, you can just use strips of paper.
- Kids pull on stick but have to agree to whatever it says before they choose.
Here are 21 boredom busting ideas to include for your jar:
- Playing a board game
- Washing/putting away the dishes
- Painting/coloring a picture
- Riding a bike or skateboard
- Building a blanket fort
- Write a letter or make a card for someone
- Put on a puppet show
- Help prepare dinner
- 30 minutes of cartoon time (important to limit screen time)
- Draw a treasure map of the yard (where do you think the pirates would have hidden treasure in our yard? Hide something ahead of time and then go find it on a treasure hunt!)
- Vacuum or sweep the floor in one room
- Play hide and seek
- Call grandma or grandpa
- Read for 30 minutes
- Tell a story or write a play
- Make cookies with a grown up
- Empty the trash
- Jump rope for 10 minutes
- Collect and sort or fold laundry
- Take a bubble bath or play with bubbles
- Have a dance party (put on some songs and dance around!)
These are just a few activities, and they may not be suitable for all ages, but they can sure get you started. Create your list and have fun with them.
5. Schedule Family Time!
For many kids, they are used to being home over the summer so going back to school (or going for the first time) will disrupt their comfort zone. Help them by establishing a set “Family Time” daily, whether it’s during dinner or before bed. Ask them about their day and listen as they talk to you. Take them grocery shopping and let them pick out their afterschool and bedtime snacks. This gives them the precious gift of time. Give kids a specific day that they can choose all the activities you do together, then mark it on the calendar so it gives them something to look forward to outside of schoolwork.
How about baking some cookies or brownies with your little one? Try out this super fudgy and uber chocolatey brownie recipe. it’s a delicious, sweet treat that can’t be beat.
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (divided in half)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a heavy-duty saucepan or microwaveable bowl, melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips and the butter over low heat, stirring frequently until chips are completely melted. If you're using the microwave method, heat chips in short increments, and stir in between.
- Remove from heat, allow to cool one minute then stir in the vanilla extract, and add the eggs, one at a time.
- Mix in the sugar, flour, and baking soda. Stir until thoroughly blended.
- Stir in the remaining chocolate chips or sprinkle over once in pan.
- Spread brownie batter into a greased or parchment paper-lined 13 X 9-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges are firm, center is set, and a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Do not over bake -- center will firm up as brownies cool
- Allow to cool, cut into servings, and enjoy!
6. Get the Look!
Let your kids help pick out their school clothes or shoes. Some wear uniforms so there’s not much leeway there. Why not indulge your child by allowing them to pick their backpacks, lunchboxes and folders? This helps your child be involved and get excited about their new choices, thus helping them be excited about getting to or back to school.
Remember to plan for weather issues and help protect your little one from mother nature. Raincoats, jackets, coats, hats, gloves, and boots depending on your location will help them brace the elements and equip them to enjoy the weather.
To complete and compliment the back-to-school look, don’t forget the crowning glory … haircuts! Get them early so you can practice and play with the new hair-do a few days before school to ensure they are thrilled with their new look.
7. Giving is Better than Receiving
A great way to show your vested interest in your child’s education is to be an involved parent. Consider volunteering and attending your child’s school functions.
Here’s some ways parents can get involved:
- Chaperoning field trips
- Sign-up to be a classroom helper, teacher aid, or homeroom parent
- Organizing and/or working at school fundraising activities and other events, like the school carnival, bake sales, and book fairs
- Planning classroom parties and festivities
- Joining the school's parent-teacher organization
- Volunteering in the library (help kids find books or restock the shelves)
- Attend career day and describe what you do
- Attending your child’s school concerts or plays (precious memories!)
With all this back-to-school prep work, you and your child are going to be in great shape for a successful school year. If you’re calm, not stressed, they will follow your lead and be excited as well, ready to embrace this adventure head on. Take a deep breath and enjoy this magic time with your young one.