Going back to school is always a busy time for both parents and children, getting started early can alleviate the pressure for everyone
Back to school
The hardest part about transitioning from summer to school term is getting back into the swing of a routine, and we know that routines have been disrupted more than usual over the last few months.
With millions of primary school children and secondary school children buckling down for another school year – whether virtually, in school or a mixture of both, it's important to think about everything you need before they head back to school - if you want to take the stress out of your first week back.
We asked our parents to come up with a checklist of things to do in the weeks leading up to a new school year, so that both you and your child can head back with your best foot forward, ready to learn.
Back to school checklist
Kick start a routine
Don't wait till the night before school starts to put a routine back into place. It's been said that if you can do something for two weeks, it becomes a routine.
Getting your kids to start gradually going to bed earlier each night and start laying out their clothes for the next day will help you avoid mass riots the night before school starts. Getting them up at a regular time for these few weeks is also helpful to combat the grumpy child routine on the first day of school.
One family has discussions over dinner about what is happening the next day to help open up the lines of communication. Doing this over the summer means it feels like less of an interrogation when the school year starts (and, for older children, before you start asking about homework!)
An important part of back to school prep for children, having a new lunch box, pretty pen set, funky felt tips or Peppa Pig pencil case is a way to help children feel excited about their first day.
One family gives each child a budget and they create a list of items they need for school which became a game for the children as well as leaving was no room for arguments as they’d picked their own supplies.
As adults we recognise that footwear can make or break our state of comfort. Children are no different; they may well be walking to and from school and be in playgrounds at lunch.
But we all know children grow like weeds! One moment things fit, the next they don't, so a couple of weeks before the school year begins, check what shoes fit and replace the ones that don't. Make sure you take comfort in mind and have them break new shoes in before the term starts - blisters can be very distressing.
Children who are back at school may spend up to 30 hours a week in their school uniforms, and it's an easy win to check off the list of unnecessary distractions. Having a uniform that fits is paramount to them being comfortable and limiting fidgeting in class. Uniforms that are too small can cause children to feel itchy, restricted and even achy for no apparent reason.
Uniforms can be expensive, so shopping at second hand uniform sales or finding local families to trade uniforms with can help cut down on the cost of replacing uniforms every year. Looking into this early means you’ll have time to accumulate what you need in time.
One of our office mums bought two whole sets before her child started year one so that they could seamlessly move from size to size without delay.
Often a daunting task, making sure each child has the right kit bag, with the right equipment on the right day of the week is no mean feat with one child, let alone multiple children!
If the school hasn’t provided one, make a list of what needs to be in each kit bag and what days it needs to go into school. This will be well worth the creation time and is an opportunity to teach your children the life skill of taking care of their own belongings.
One of our mums has the kit bags for the week packed, by the children and checked by her every Sunday. The children follow the checklists to make sure they have everything and can follow the calendar to see what they need each morning, which helps take the rush out of the morning scramble.
Label, Label, Label
There are lots of easy online options available but don’t leave it to the last minute. And get lots! Label everything that you can, from shoes, to lunch boxes, uniforms, kit and toys. You won’t regret it when anything from bunny to gym kit goes missing!
Preparation the night before
We all know how manic the mornings can be with children running around telling you they can't find their trainers or musical instrument, so having a plan the night before mean the mornings be more relaxed.
Packing and checking school bags, making sure that a snack is in the fridge or on the counter ready to be popped into their bag and that any homework has been completed and is safely stowed away, makes life easier for everyone.
This is another time when pre-made lists come in handy and children can help take responsibility for what they need. Having a list of everyday items and then certain things allotted to different days will help all of you!
One parent notes that even though they convinced the kids those lists were for them, they were really there to help them remember what was happening each day.
Reading, writing and maths
Over the summer, kids get out of the habit of doing homework, which can make the first week back to school a bit of a hassle for those with it to do. But if you start getting them back in to the habit a week or two before school starts, you'll find that there is less of a fight on your hands.
We’re not talking about inventing homework, of course, but even the simple act of choosing a story that you'll read together (or some ‘quiet reading time’ before bed for older children) and reintegrating this as part of your routine, can be enough to remind them of how to focus on something for a period of time.
Summers can be filled with picnics, ice cream and lots of treats but we also know that children need to have healthy foods, low in sugar, to be able to concentrate for long periods of time.
Stocking up on healthy snacks before the school year starts, means there will be less temptation to grab a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar on the way to school. Whether you decide to go for a snack of cheese, crackers or a handful of Weetabix Minis – arm yourself with an arsenal of options that don't involve mountains of refined sugar.
Having a childcare plan in place well before September will help you to manage the back to school rush. Whether you have one in nursery and one in school, are juggling the school routines on your own or have help with before and after school activities, knowing who is doing what and how it all fits into a schedule alleviates pressure.
Remember to breathe! Both you and the children may be a little anxious about the new year starting so don't think you're the only one. Keep in mind that your child will feed off your anxieties and try to make it sound like as positive an experience as possible.