It may not always feel like autumn is around the corner, but summer is indeed running out more quickly than we’d like. Slowly but surely, the days are getting shorter and the sun is setting a little earlier. As summer wanes, it’s time for the kids to head back to school!
Is your family ready for the big day?
While the adults in your household may be more than ready to get everyone back into a routine, those changes in sleep schedules and eating patterns don’t happen overnight. To avoid unnecessary stress and make the transition to the new school year a successful one, it’s important to start preparing in the weeks leading up to the first day. From early morning wake-ups to packing healthy school lunches, here’s everything you need to know to get your family back on the bus.
Reset Sleep Schedules
The sooner you start enforcing school-day bedtimes, the more time your kids will have to adjust their circadian rhythms before the first day. The best way to ease your kids back into a school-appropriate sleep routine is to adjust bedtimes and wake-up calls by 15 minutes each day until you reach the right bedtime for school days. This is a gentle transition that’s so gradual your kids won’t put up much of a fight — if they even notice what you’re doing! As you work to dial the alarm clock back a little bit each day, don’t forget that your ultimate goal is to settle into a bedtime that allows your child to get nine to 11 hours of sleep every night. If that sounds like a lot, remember that your child is still growing and developing — it’s hard work!
Before you even think about that back-to-school shopping trip, you need to start with a clean slate. Now’s the time to go through your child’s drawers and check old clothes for fit. Anything that’s outgrown, but still serviceable should go to a local charity. In addition to making space in your closets, you’ll make someone else’s back-to-school better. Clothing that’s truly worn-out can still be sent to an eco-friendly fabric recycler, where it will end up as stuffing in things such as toys and throw pillows.
The same is true of your child’s bookshelves and desk. Decide together what items to keep and what is no longer needed. You don’t want to give away a favorite toy before your child’s ready to give it up, but you can move the process along by helping kids to place items in piles to keep or give away. With shelves and drawers empty for a moment, you have a great opportunity to do the type of deep cleaning of nooks and crannies that only happens once or twice a year. As you put things back, take time to consider what your child needs to reach on a daily basis to be successful, and keep those items front and center to encourage independence.
Back-to-School Shopping, Part One: The Clothes
Once you’ve gone through your child’s drawers with a fine-tooth comb, you’re ready to make a shopping list. Tally up how many of each item your child already owns — shirts, pants, socks, etc. — and decide how many more are needed to get through at least a week of classes. A good rule of thumb is to have eight or nine of each main item so you don’t run out of anything before a weekly laundry run. You’ll also need sturdy sneakers and a few sweaters at minimum. You can check outerwear needs as well, though you still have plenty of time to shop for deals before the weather turns cold. If your child’s school has a dress code, be sure to check for any uniform guidelines and schedules so that you can pick up the appropriate attire from an approved vendor. Once you get back home with bags filled with new clothes, be sure to fold them all neatly and place them on hangers or into drawers. Put the most needed items, such as school uniforms, in easy reach to make the morning rush easier. Show your child where items belong so that new clothing can stay neat and organized through the school year.
Back-to-School Shopping, Part Two: The School Supplies
Although shopping for clothing is easy to do in the days or weeks before classes are back in session, school supplies are another story. If this isn’t your first rodeo, you already have a sense of the way your child’s school handles supplies. If you’re truly lucky, the school provides everything your child needs. However, if the school doesn’t provide materials, you probably will receive — if you haven’t already — a long list of things to buy that reflects your child’s teacher’s preferred method of organizing notes and information. It’s always smart to follow this list when you go shopping, even if you’re not entirely sure what some items are for. If you’re concerned about the cost, hold off on shopping for supplies until the first week of school, when you can get in touch with the teacher for some help separating the “must-haves” from the “nice-to-haves.”
Packing Healthy Lunches
A few days before school begins, it’s time to think about your lunch packing routine. Make sure lunch boxes, thermoses and Tupperware containers are all in good shape, and make any necessary replacements. You can educate your kids about healthy eating and get them involved in packing lunches by allowing them to make choices about food the night before. Keep a white board in the kitchen where you list available lunch items by food group: fruits, veggies, protein and grains. You can let your kids choose one of each item to create a balanced lunch — it’s ok to combine items into a great sandwich or salad, too! Depending on your child’s age, you can enlist his or her help in packing the lunchbox with healthy ingredients the night before, which will clear time in the morning for a healthy breakfast.
Starting The Day Right
On the big day, make sure those alarms are set and your kids get up on time! They should have enough time to sit down to a nutritious breakfast. This could be cold cereal and milk with a piece of fruit, scrambled eggs and whole grain toast, or any other vitamin-packed favorite to the get the day off to a good start. Breakfast is a crucial habit to keep your kids fueled and ready to concentrate on a full morning of learning, so lay a solid foundation on the very first day.
After breakfast, you’ll get everyone out the door quickly with a school station at the front door: Have backpacks, lunch boxes and shoes lined up and ready to go for each child. Don’t forget to snap a quick photo on day one before dashing out the door to the bus stop, the carpool or for the walk to school. These photos will serve as great memories in the years to come.
Much of what makes the school-day routine run smoothly is advance preparation, so take your time to set your kids up for success. Once you get through the first two weeks or so, your new routine will feel like a stroll in the park — it’s just important to make sure that you all settle into some good habits together so you can be ready for whatever the new school year brings.