Back-to-school seems to have snuck up on us! As we relish these last long, lazy days of lounging at the pool, playing in the park and late-night s’mores, it’s time to slowly but surely start thinking about modifying the kids’ schedule and preparing for the inevitable return to the classroom. To help, we’ve created a checklist to prepare for a healthy return to your routine.
- Make an appointment for a health check-up. Did you know that August is National Immunization Awareness Month? It’s the ideal time to make sure your child is up-to-date on all immunizations and boosters, and to check off an annual physical, so they can feel their best. This is also a great time, as a parent, to ask their primary care provider questions. If you have any concerns about their physical or mental health, including their eating habits, moods, growth and any parental challenges, now is the time to ask. Make a list of questions in advance to help you remember.
- Update the school on medications and medical conditions. If your child needs to take medications during the day, or if the school needs to be in the loop about any medical conditions, find out what steps you need to take so that all forms and records are in order. At the same time, make sure all emergency contact information on file is up-to-date.
- Polish up those pearly whites. While you’re focusing on their physical health, don’t forget their teeth! Make an appointment with their dentist for a cleaning, so they can start the school year with a sparkling smile.
- Schedule an eye appointment. Vision challenges can have an impact on learning. Make sure your child can read the lessons at hand, whether they’re on the chalkboard or the computer. Schedule an appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist so you can catch and correct any vision challenges early.
- Make an appointment for a haircut. Back-to-school is a busy time for salons. Make sure you make an appointment or drop in when you can, so your child looks and feels their best.
- Get back on track with healthy eating. Maybe you’ve been a bit lax with the sweets and snacks this summer. Now is the time to return to a healthy routine, filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, and low in sugar and processed foods. Not only will this help give your child the energy and brain power they need, it may also give their immune system a boost as they head back indoors with their peers.
- Bring back the bedtime routine. If the kids have become night owls, it may take a little adjusting—and time—to get them back on track. Figure out how much sleep your child need (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours, including naps; school age kids need nine to 12 hours; teens need eight to 10 hours) and gradually ease into a schedule that will have them well rested and waking up on time, so they’re in place when the first school bell rings.
- Jumpstart the morning routine. If your kids have fallen in love with sleeping in and lounging, you may want to have some “practice” mornings, so they can remember what it feels like to get out of bed, eat a quick, healthy breakfast and get moving right away.
- Sort through last year’s clothes and make a donation pile. Now’s the time to dig through drawers and closets and see what your child has outgrown or shunned. Donate those and then shop for what you need for the new year.
- Start gathering supplies. In addition to the annual backpack, lunch box and school supplies purchases, you’ll also want to stock up on health and safety items, such as hand sanitizer, wipes and extra face masks.
- Talk about the importance of handwashing. As your child heads into a new classroom, surrounded by new classmates, it’s helpful to remind them about when and how to wash their hands (such as, before and after eating, before and after using the bathroom, before and after coughing and sneezing, etc.). Remind them to hum the “Happy Birthday” song to be sure they’re scrubbing for a full 20 seconds.
- Clean out and then restock the fridge, freezer and pantry. Out with the old, in with the new! A fresh start always feels nice, even if it means scrubbing vegetable drawers and wiping down pantry shelves. Donate any food you can, and then start stocking up on meals and snacks that will be easy to prepare during those busy school days and nights.
- Make space for backpacks and homework. Time to get re-organized! Make sure there’s a convenient area for your child to store their backpack and other supplies. And while you’re at it, spiffy up their studying space, so there will be no homework excuses right off the bat!
- Talk about their feelings. Some kids get nervous before they go back to school. Have a heart-to-heart discussion about how they’re feeling, and think about ways you might be able to calm their anxiety and make back-to-school a positive experience. If you sense your child is really struggling, consider finding a counselor or therapist they could talk to.
- Focus their energy through exercise. Exercise can relieve stress, improve focus, reduce anxiety, help you sleep and just make you feel better overall. This is a great time to get the whole family into a fitness routine, whether it’s going on group bike rides, playing sports together or just taking a nightly walk after dinner, and talking about your day.
- Establish an emergency plan. We’ve all learned to expect the unexpected at this point! At some point during the school year, you may have to deal with illness in the family, or other challenges. Talk with friends and family members to come up with a plan, in case you need help. Just having the conversation may help set your mind at ease.
- Do a recipe refresh. We all fall into ruts, making the same sandwiches or preparing the same dinners over and over again. Set aside an hour or so to do a recipe search and find some new ideas for easy breakfasts, lunches and dinners that your family will love.
Back-to-school is an exciting time for kids and parents, alike. It’s an opportunity for learning and growth, as your child expands their minds and their interests. This year, start talking about the importance of education early, and get your child excited for all that awaits them in the next grade!