17 Back-to-School Tips From Seriously Overachieving Parents
These moms and dads know a thing or two about shopping!
For three blissful months, you and your child have enjoyed the laid-back days of summer: vacations, ice cream, perhaps even forgetting which day of the week it is. But as August rolls in, those carefree days are numbered—and soon enough, your daily routine will once again consist of pick-ups, drop-offs, and after-school activities.
To ensure things go as smoothly as possible, we've called upon some incredible parents to help you navigate the upcoming school season. From back-to-school shopping techniques to lunch-packing methods, these are all the tips you'll want to know before that first bell rings. And for more ways to get ready for the first day of school, avoid these 15 Biggest Back-to-School Mistakes Parents Are Always Making.
Go back-to-school shopping earlier.
"Avoid stressful, pricey, last-minute shopping," says Carmela Matthews, a director of merchandise at online retailer Zulily, and a self-professed overachieving mom. "Get started early in the summer so you can be finished before all the good seasonal deals are gone." For reference, know that many sales start in July. And for more ways to save on back-to-school shopping, check out these 10 Ways You Can Get Free School Supplies.
Buy clothes in bulk.
See an amazing deal? Buy in bulk… and in potential future sizes, too.
For example, if you find a ton of great socks for $1 a pair, buy a few pairs in different sizes. "Purchasing for kids for several years—with the expectation that they will grow—can provide wallet relief," says Matthews. You'll thank yourself down the road.
It's "getting to go to school," not "having to go to school."
It's a challenge to get kids pumped and positive about returning to the grind of school, but not impossible. On her parenting blog Coffee and Carpool, super-mom Nicole Black says that creating a markdown calendar that keeps track of the days left until the first day of school actually helps get your kids excited about the upcoming school year. And when you discuss it, always use upbeat language. "Talk about 'getting to go to school' rather than 'having to go to school' to keep the conversation about school positive," she writes. And for more insider school secrets, read the 20 Shocking Confessions from Public School Teachers.
Read books about going to school.
If your child doesn't seem too thrilled to start the new school year, you might be able to help them conjure up at least a little excitement by reading them books about positive back-to-school experiences. Black's favorites are Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate and Boomer Goes to School by Constance W. McGeorge. And for more ways to prepare your child for school, check out these 17 Back-to-School Memes to Get You Ready for the Big Day.
Do a first day run-through.
Especially if your child errs on the anxious side, embarking on a run-through of their upcoming routine can help ensure a smooth transition. You might even arrange a meeting with their new teacher.
"If it’s possible, take a tour of the school so your kids will see where they will eat lunch, where they will go to the bathroom, and where they can get water," writes Black. "Knowing their basic needs will be taken care of will assure them." And your child will likely feel excited to start school after seeing where they'll sit and hang up their backpacks every day.
Become a Back-to-School Fairy.
Similar to the Tooth Fairy, the Back-to-School Fairy leaves a present under your child's pillow the night before their big day. "Nothing excites my kids more than knowing the fairies are coming the night before school to bring them a little surprise," writes Black. "The fairies always bring really fun school supplies, like smelly markers and stickers." And for more back-to-school traditions, check out the 16 Back-to-School Photos That Will Make You So Nostalgic.
Don't linger when you say goodbye.
Though it can be hard to send your little ones off to their first day of school (even if they're disgruntled teenagers), Black urges parents to say their goodbyes quickly to avoid making it harder for both of you to come to terms with the new routine.
"Parents who linger at drop off make it harder for their kids," she writes. "If your child is crying, they will calm down a few minutes after you leave. It’s 99 percent guaranteed. A quick hug, kiss, and a reminder that you’ll see them after school is perfect. Then walk out the door."
Teach them to respect their teachers.
"My best tip is to treat the teacher like another parent in your child's life," says Hilary Erickson, a mom and the creator of Pulling Curls, a home, pregnancy, and parenting blog. "That means when the teacher asks them to do something, you expect them to obey, and you also don't talk poorly about that teacher around your child." Similarly, these are the 30 Worst Things Parents Can Say to Their Kids' Teachers.
Tape a family photo inside their lunchbox.
Your child's first day back at school can be incredibly overwhelming—especially if it involves an assortment of new faces and new routines. To make things just a bit easier, remind your kids of less stressful times on their first day back.
"Tape a picture of your family inside your child’s lunch box or supply box," writes Black. "Seeing a friendly face when they’re feeling nervous or anxious can help them get through the day." And for more ways to prepare for the back-to-school season, check out these 50 Back-to-School Quotes for the Entire Family.
Create a "lunch bin" to keep in your refrigerator.
Not only do you have to get your kids dressed and out the door for the next 10 months, but you also have to pack them a healthy and delicious lunch. To combat that stress, Marie Fiebach, a mother and the creator of the Feed Your Family Tonight podcast and blog, suggests getting creative.
"Create a 'lunch bin' to keep in your refrigerator," she says. "The best time to prep your child’s lunch is when you are cleaning up dinner dishes. Put all the items that are shelf-stable in the lunchbox at night. Then in the morning, you can add the refrigerated items. If everything is in one bin, it keeps you from digging through the fridge on busy mornings."
Use Teuko to pack stellar lunches.
To better streamline your lunch-packing routine, Jessica Gury, a mom and entrepreneur, created Teuko, an application that houses lunchbox ideas, organizational tools (personalized meal planning), and grocery lists. "Back-to-school means for many parents 'back-to-lunch-packing,'" she says. "My number one tip as a parent for transforming the dreadful routine into a positive experience is to track what you pack."
Set a limit on school activities.
It's best to not exhaust your child (and yourself!) by allowing them to sign up for every activity that piques their interest. "Set limits," says Dr. Melissa Gratias, a mom, productivity expert, and author of the children's book Seraphina Does Everything! "How many activities per season, how many hours per day, days per week, etc. If they have no limits, they don’t know when to stop asking. Make sure these limits work for your family."
Simply marking your child's initials or last name on the tags of their clothing makes it impossible for their favorite sweater to find its way to the lost-and-found. Plus, when it's time for camp or differentiating your child's clothes from their friends' after a sleepover, you'll already know what's what.
Invest in no-tie shoelaces.
Create less stress for children and teachers alike with this genius invention: elastic no-tie laces. These laces work with all of your children's favorite shoes and will no longer limit them to shoes with velcro.
"Even if your kiddo knows how to tie their shoes, chances are they aren’t super fast at it," writes Black. "As a teacher, I spent half my day tying laces. We practice at home, but I send [my kids] to school with these easy guys. As an added bonus, when it’s time to get their shoes on in the morning, it’ll take kids seconds rather than minutes!"
Also, invest in lice spray.
Nothing will derail a successful year at school like a nasty case of lice. Which is why, according to Black, you should invest in a bottle of lice spray to remain armed against these pesky critters.
"My eldest came home from kindergarten with a raging case of head lice," she writes. "And all five of us got it. It was the biggest nightmare. So now, my girls wear their hair up in braids, buns, or ponytails. Every day. And everyone gets sprayed with lice spray now."
Find ways to help out your child's school.
To help your child achieve greatness, show them that you're invested in their studies by volunteering your time at their school. Try something as simple as chaperoning the school book fair or field trip or donating a few extra rolls of paper towels to the classroom. Easy peasy!
Set up a homework station.
"We create a space with crayons, pencils, scissors, and glue sticks–everything your child will need to be successful at completing their homework and avoid homework hassles later," writes Black.
From there, Black explains that you can create an after-school schedule that is conducive to getting homework done in a timely manner without any fits or tantrums. And in addition to homework management, these are the 33 Life Skills Every Parent Should Teach Their Kids.
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