30 Tips for Preparing Your Kids for a Successful Back to School Routine
Summer is that amazing time of year that we spend most of the other months looking forward to. Especially here in Eastern Canada! It’s filled with fun and excitement and last minute memories made by being flexible enough to jump into just about any activity. It’s hard to imagine that summer planning can be such an important part of preparing for back to school and preparing soon-to-be-students who will be going to school for the first time this fall.
Whether you have kids going to school (preschool, daycare, public school or private and even homeschool) for the first time or you are looking to set yourself for the best year yet after feeling the rush and hectic schedule of last year, we have the back to school tips for setting up a successful school year for you and your family.
The adjustment of diving into summer and returning to the fall routine applies to everyone in the house. As we’ve come to learn, maintaining a summer routine (more about that here) is critical in jumping into a successful start to the school year. It doesn’t need to be as structured as your typical routine throughout the year but listed below are tips to make sure you start the year off strong.
Read On for Back to School Preparation Tips
30 Tips for Preparing Your Kids for a Successful Back to School Routine:
- Creating Routine
- Morning Routine and How to Prepare for School in the Morning for a Successful Day
- End of the Day Routine
- Evening Routine
- What to Keep in Mind During the Summer
- How to Prepare for School During the Summer
- Preparing Your Home for Back to School
- Getting Organized
- Preparing Little Minds and Hearts
- Attending School for the First Time
- Check Ups
- Social – Emotional Preparation for Children Going to School
- Setting Children Up with Confidence for Their First Days of School
- Back to School Preparation for Parents
Is Your Child Heading to Kindergarten soon?!
Looking over at that amazing child of yours, thinking of slipping the straps of a backpack far too big for their still tiny shoulders as you send them off to kindergarten for the first time, armed with the perfectly packed lunch and all the love in your heart; what a milestone!
Well, Mama. I can help you prepare for this amazing adventure.
In a FREE email course, I walk you through
the 5 MOST IMPORTANT steps to preparing your child for kindergarten.
30 Tips for Preparing Your Kids for a Successful Back to School Routine
Things to do to get your child ready for school this fall
Get your child back into the groove of old routines, or for children starting school, preschool, daycare or homeschool, take the time to integrate and establish new routines. This lets everyone in the house practice the system and iron out what works best for each member in the house. It also allows everyone to know the expectations of each new part of their routine (breaking it down into manageable aspects). Although giving your child a couple of weeks to do this would be great, my friend Kristen of Data Mom and I would argue that maintaining routine all summer long is the best method of success.
How to prepare for school in the morning
Have quick breakfast plan ready to go! I know at my house, I can power through my to-do list without even thinking of meal planning and it isn’t until the last moment that I think I need snacks for the car, quick breakfasts that are healthy and provide energy to get the morning started and water bottles ready for whatever the day brings. I’ve gotten in a much better habit of preparing breakfasts that are quick and easy and have everything waiting at the front of the fridge so I see it right away.
How long does it take to get everyone where they need to be (just ask Alexa)? Giving yourself a few extra minutes for those hard Mondays, or unexpected events, how long will it ACTUALLY take you to travel where you need to in the morning traffic? Knowing this ahead of time will be so helpful in giving you the time buffers needed. It sounds silly, but giving yourself those few extra minutes puts everyone else at ease if there isn’t an unspoken panic in the car, on the walk, bus or bike (or whatever method of transportation you take) and sets everyone up for a much better day. Think of how you feel when you arrive late for something verses having a few extra minutes. Having your heart race in a negative way like this can create an unnecessary anxiety.
Prepare lunches the night before and have your child be involved (read more on how this increases their independence here). Have aspects of snacks and meals that they can grab themselves to help pack their bag.
Wake at same time each day. This can be tricky with late sleepers in the house but if you gradually wake them a little bit earlier each day, you can establish that new wake up time over the course of a couple of weeks. On the flip side of this is having children learn to stay in bed until it is time to get up. The Gro Clock is an amazing tool for this, teaching kids like mine to stay in bed until the sun shows on the clock. There are so many variations on it, including the adult gentle alarm which mimics the sunrise slowly entering the room.
Think through the morning requirements for your home and get organized for it the night before. Pack bags, have outdoor clothes ready to go for all weather potential and changes throughout the day, sunscreen ready to be applied before going out the door on those warm days with outdoor play, lunches packed and ready to be taken from the fridge. Anything you need to help get you out the door in a smooth way. Take the time to practice this routine with your kids before the first day of school or care. If you have a mudroom or a set of hooks for everyone in the family, this is a great spot to have everything ready for getting out the door. Get these ahead of time so your little one can get to know that it is theirs. Labels like these are by far the best and come with everything from iron ons, tags for bags and stickers that are customizable, waterproof, dishwasher, microwave and washing machine safe. If that doesn’t cover everything, I don’t know what does!
End of the Day Routine
When school starts, take each evening to talk about your child’s day until this becomes a new part of your family culture. This time provides you the opportunity to talk through any changes to the next day, where each member of the family will be and what is going on during the ins and outs of every day. Having this routine established early on in life and in the school year creates a safe place for conversations about feelings and emotions tied to the day.
Plan for after school. Where does everyone go after the bell rings? Are children coming right home, heading to childcare, getting picked up by a friend or loved one, going to extra curricular events? Whatever the case may be, it’s important that everyone knows where they need to be each day, taking the unexpected away from the child, keeping them in the know, and preparing for if those plans don’t work out with a back up plan. Is everyone comfortable with where they need to go and who (and how) to contact if something was to go off plan?
Along those lines, have established plans for those days when things go off schedule. Someone is home sick, an out of town meeting for mom or dad, or the after school plan falls through. No matter the reason, have a set of back up friends or family to rely on, or care services you can contact with little notice. Kristen shared a recent example of when this becomes so important on her blog, Data Mom.
Eat at same time each day. Set children up for the snack times and meal times they will be experiencing during their day while attending school as well as the suppertime that works for everyone’s schedule at home. Doing this early allows their growing bodies to adjust to the expectation of routine and not being able to eat as they please all day long, as we so often do during the summer.
At the end of the day, ensure that everyone has a responsibility to help prepare for the following day. Picking the clothes to be set out, tidying up the kitchen from supper, feeding pets, packing school bags. Everyone should be involved in making sure that the next day is a great one (more on that here).
Tidy the house the evening before so you start the day off right. Having things decluttered (more on that here) make it easier to find homework, hats and homes for everything, which makes for a smoother start to your morning instead of the panic of lost keys, bags and coats.
Plan clothing for the following day with the kids involved. Have them set out the next day’s outfit so there is no guess work in the morning. I do this for myself as well to take one more decision away from my morning and let’s me enjoy moments with my daughter rather than shuffling through my closet searching for something to wear.
Get back into your school sleep routine. Preparing for this earlier than the night before school begins allows you to deal with those struggles little ones might have going to bed before the sun sets (more on that here) and gets everyone used to bed times and wake up times that make for a successful day. Using tools like Gro Clock can support you in this effort. It’s so tempting to keep kiddos up a little later, especially when they are offering a snuggle, but those bedtimes remain as important as ever (although wavering from time to time is what life is all about!)
To Keep in Mind During the Summer
How to prepare for school over the summer
Use handheld screens (and TV) less frequently. When routine wavers we often resort to reaching out to our favourite devices to watch a show, play a game or check into our social media. This is illustrated to our children and becomes a part of their everyday. In preparing for the time our children will be away from screens and devices with school expectations, it’s important to set this standard early on.
Preparing Your Home for Back to School
Create a designated “school work” area in your house where homework or projects can be completed with you nearby for support. We have a small table in our living room that my daughter uses as her work table while I do work at the kitchen table. I can also pick away at a few chores or meal preparation while she works at her table on crafts or her Love of Learning Binder. She has her bucket of pencils and markers, scissors and paper that she can easily grab for any project she wants to create and has this special space for her work. This will set foundation for creating a routine for homework in the school years and establishing the importance of having a space to keep materials and tools for learning.
Make a plan for home spaces used in the morning. In my family, the three of us need to share the single (and tiny) bathroom which normally isn’t a problem. But in the morning rush, we all need in there to brush teeth and hair, and having to all be out the door at the same time makes that tough. While my daughter is young, we’ve come up with a strategy of turn taking to make this work but when she gets older we will have to block time that each of us can be in there so she can easily have her own time and space in without monopolizing the whole room.
Set up a family calendar or area in your house where all forms, paperwork and information for each member of the family can be found. For us, this is the fridge since it is central in the house and is in line from the two main entrances of the house. This gets us in the habit of putting all important information there as soon as we come in the door and marking down where everyone needs to be and when. If you are a technology house or have older children who have tech in their hands, you might prefer to have a shared calendar like what Google Calendar offers (which you can update quickly and easily with Alexa’s help). Then everyone can input their updates in the moment and the information is accessible to everyone in the group. Another tool I have used in the past is Trello (it’s free) which creates to-do lists that the whole family can log into and edit. But at the end of the day I like pen to paper and I like to have a planner that I can take with me where ever I go and LOVE LOVE LOVE my Erin Condren planner. It’s customizable, beautiful and I have a $10 off coupon for you here (*pro tip* if you join her newsletter you get an additional 10% off*) Whatever works for you, keep it all in one place. If you have a mudroom this could be a great place to set up this drop zone.
Getting Your Back to School Supplies
If your school requests that you have supplies with you on the first day, involve your children in choosing those items and make it a fun experience at the store or shop for amazing deals on Amazon, or better yet, shop like the pros in supplies shopping (teachers!) at the Discount School Supply Store ! (my personal favorite and where I shopped for supplies for the daycare!) Backpacks, lunch boxes, pencils and paper don’t need to be brand new if you are on a budget or not looking to purchase something new, but it can be fun to organize all the tools for learning for this new season in your child’s life. Also have some fun and exciting tools for learning at home to enrich the experience and to make homework a breeze. Make sure to label everything with your child’s name to encourage ownership and responsibility (more on that here)
Check sales for back to school clothes and play clothes and assess what you actually need for the year. I love to check out consignment shops so I can feel confident that my daughter can play to her heart’s content and get as messy as she likes without staining a brand new and pricey item of clothing. I make sure I have a few go-to outfits that can be packed in a bag and kept at school, daycare, after school care or where ever she may be, just in case it’s needed, but I also love to treat her to a few cute outfits of her choosing – our favorite – Peekaboo Beans!
Preparing Little Minds and Hearts
Attending School for the First Time
If your child is starting school for the first time, starting a new school or feeling extra anxious about school beginning again, ask your school if you can visit in the late spring before letting out for the year, or if you can visit the day before school begins while the teachers are preparing for student arrivals.
Make appointments for checkups so that you aren’t interrupting the school year to get their yearly visits in and you can make sure everything is A-okay before everyone gets busy with school and extracurricular activities. Click here on strategies and freebies to making a first trip to the dentist a success!
Social-Emotional Preparation for Children Going to School
If your child is going to school based on their school zone, find out if there are children in your area going to the same school that you can introduce to your child ahead of time. Seeing a friendly face on the first day (on the bus, in the classroom, on the playground) can go a long way to setting your child at ease.
If your child will be travelling to school with someone other than you (bus, carpool, walking), go through the route with them and talk them through about what to expect.
Set them up for the tasks they will be doing independently. Bathroom activities, keeping track of their belongings (name tags help) are all key in ensuring they feel prepared and to prevent overwhelm in those moments at school
Setting Children Up with Confidence for Their First Days of School
Read 20-30 minutes a day with your child is so important for so many reasons in addition to the bond that you are creating. Reading about back to school is a great way to reintroduce this topic and conversation. This provides a great opportunity for talking through emotions and feelings associated with going to school.
To ensure your child feel confident in what they know, spend time each day going over the core concepts that they will be learning in school. Mastering all skills isn’t as important as introducing them and providing a comfort with all there is to be learned. Children are sponges and learn so incredibly quickly and giving them a head start with resources like the Love of Learning Binder is providing them more opportunity and setting them up for lifelong success.
Back to School Preparation for Parents
If you are feeling anxious about the separation of having your child start school, be honest with your child (as noted, books and play provide amazing opportunity to talk through feelings for both parents and children) but be sure to not place your anxiety upon them. Talk to them about the milestone and how exciting it will be, how many opportunities will open for them (new friends, new play, new books and toys, new adventures and so on) and how wonderful it will be to talk about them together at the end of the day.
Have supper plans ready for the week ahead. Involve the kids in this as there is so much learning opportunity, and having the extra helping hands doesn’t hurt. For an awesome freebie on keeping learning top of mind when it comes to meal planning, click here. Planning ahead for supper takes one more decision off of your shoulders, let’s the kids know what to expect when supper time comes while allows things to come together more quickly for those hungry, hurried bellies.
Check if you have any paperwork that needs to be completed before the beginning of school or childcare. For many first time attendees, there may be information shared from your child’s new teacher (think school supply lists or other updates), or given on those last days of school. Many of these forms can be found on your school’s website if you need a second copy or are looking for recommendations on specific to-do’s for your school. If you are homeschooling, you may want to look into curriculum guides or supports that are helpful for you which can set you up on the right path for your program. If there are any notable dates, holidays, events, it’s a great time to get them on the calendar now.
How Are You Preparing for Back to School This Year?
Ensuring you’re setting everyone in the house up for success for the school year, it’s a great idea to lay the groundwork for the school routine before having to jump right into it using some (or all) of the tips listed. I would love to hear how you prepare for back to school and what you are doing this year to make sure it is a successful one from the start! As always, comment below or reach out to me directly here.
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