The lazy days of summer are drifting to an end, and the dawn of a new school year is peeking over the horizon. With it comes excitement, anxiety, and, for busy parents, a new set of challenges.
Educators often say that for students, returning to school after three months of vacation is like trying to run a marathon after lying on the couch all summer. And for good reason: Not only are kids unaccustomed to the daily school routine, but their eating and sleeping schedules have likely shifted over the summer. Plus, they face emotional challenges like the back-to-school night jitters, learning to trust a new teacher, making new friends, completing challenging schoolwork, and transitioning from elementary school to the new environment of middle school. And if they're learning from home this fall, that comes with its own challenges.
So, parents, you’ve got a lot on your plates. But never fear. By planning ahead (and pat yourself on the back! By reading this article, you’re on the right track) and finding a way to automate simple tasks, you’ll ace the school year ahead – and your kiddos will, too.
Back-to-School Tips for Parents
1. Shape up your schedule
The first step to being back-to-school savvy is to remember that your kids aren’t the only ones shifting their schedules – yours will be affected, too, especially your morning routine and mid-afternoon.
Transition your kids back to “school bedtime” about two weeks ahead of the first day of school. This helps guarantee their success on their first day, and also helps your entire family get back into the zone. Remember, you’ll need the extra sleep and energy, too, to bundle them off to school successfully each morning before you start your day. (Bonus: Check out the Sleep Foundation’s tips for great back-to-school sleeping habits.)
3. Ease kids back into the school mindset with family activities
Learning doesn’t stop when the school year does. If your kiddos have lapsed into lazy hours surfing social media or splashing in the pool, help them switch their learning brains back on with school-like family activities:
Take a “field” trip
As a family, visit museums and historical sites – even zoos, aquariums or libraries. Before you go, ask your child what they expect, and what they want to learn; throughout the visit, encourage them to ask questions and discuss new insights and observations.
Sit down together for arts and crafts
Especially for little ones, sitting in a classroom can be challenging after a summer of freedom. Practice sitting down together for a sustained – but fun! – activity like arts and crafts. (This also gives you primo opportunities to practice sharing and clean-up.) We love the kid-oriented kits from the adorably named Craft + Boogie, a subscription delivering 3-4 monthly craft projects with tie-ins to seasons and holidays – plus, snack recipes your little ones can make themselves.
Steep them in STEM learning
Help your kiddo rediscover the hands-on fun of science class before the first day of school with fun at-home science experiments! Get in back-to-school mode – and teach a lifelong love for the planet and sustainable activities – with the projects from Green Kids Crafts, which delivers 6 activity kits (and full sets of supplies) each month. Then, once your kid is a mad scientist, check out these 15 simple experiments you can do with materials you’ve already got at home.
4. Get reading
Reading with children is key to helping build literacy, preparing for academic success, and bonding as a family – so it should already be part of your routine, even in the summer.
Restock your family’s bookshelves and give reading time an extra spark by having a family book club! The reading practice will get those young brains firing again, and reorient the littles toward sitting still for story time. Try a beautifully curated book club kit for children like Bookroo Box, which offers individualized subscriptions at the board book, picture book, and chapter book levels.
5. Prep for the classroom with structure at home
Your children have more than math and the ABCs to learn at school – especially in the early years, teachers gently teach social skills and responsibility, often by using classroom “jobs” like cleaning up and serving as line leader. Reduce your child’s school anxiety by introducing some of these elements in your own home with a DIY chore chart. When they’ve completed their responsibilities for the week, let them know how proud you are of the important work they’ve done. For more classroom vibes, reward them with fun, bright-colored stickers, just like your child's teacher will use in school!
6. Get those brains in gear for learning
Ready to get a jumpstart on academics? Banish the back-to-school jitters by familiarizing your child with the lessons and activities they might encounter during the school day. For littles, the mom-curated The Preschool Box is a school prep slam dunk, including fun stickers, crafts, activities and more (including a parent guide) for the preschool and kindergarten set. If your kiddo is in the age 5-10 range, level on up with Superpower Academy, a monthly box of “secret missions” jam-packed with fun, interactive STEAM activities that unlock “super powers” for children. This one includes parent guides with new insights on child developmental science, so it’s a perfect pack to help you support your child as school starts.
7. Teach kindness and sharing for at-school behavior
One of the most valuable lessons your child can learn – at school and at home – is how to be a global citizen. As we’ve mentioned, your child will be exposed to ideas like kindness, sharing and responsibility in the classroom. Be sure to integrate these ideas in your conversations and activities at home.
Easier said than done, right? If you’re feeling daunted, check out the "Take Action" box from inspiring subscription Cultivate Kindness. Each box focuses on a different cause and comes with a Kindness Activity Kit to complete, plus snack ideas, planner printables, and more. It’s a fantastic tool to support the great work you’re already doing at home.