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Back-to-School Checklist: Elementary School Edition


As you soak up the remaining weeks of summer, you may not be ready to think about prepping for another school year. But like it or not, it’s back-to-school time for your elementary school student, and it’s your job to get them started on the right foot.

From shopping to daily routines to food, here are some helpful tips to follow as you help your child prepare for their first day back.

Visit the School

It’s especially important for younger kids to get the lay of the land and know where they’re going before the first day of school. Take advantage of back-to-school nights so you can show your child their classrooms, cafeteria, playground, gymnasium, nurse’s office, and all the important places they’ll be going.

Meet Their Teacher

Most schools will offer you (and your child) the chance to meet their teacher before school starts. Seeing a familiar face when walking into the classroom on the first day can help your child feel more comfortable.

Get on a Sleep Schedule

After the lazy days of summer, getting up early for school can come as quite a shock. It’s a good idea to start the new sleep routine a couple of weeks before the first day of school. This will give your child time to let their body adjust to the new schedule, as well as find the ideal time to go to bed and wake up so they still get enough sleep.

Develop a Morning Routine

There’s nothing worse than everyone running around frantically trying to make it to the bus or drop off on time. As you test out the new sleep schedule, you can also practice your morning routine. It can be tough for a sleepy kid to wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and get out the door on time, so you might need more time than you initially thought. Leave a little extra padding in your morning to account for unforeseen events so that even if someone oversleeps or can’t find their homework, you can still get out on schedule.

Discuss Transportation

No matter how your kid will get to and from school, it’s important to talk to them about it and set clear guidelines ahead of time. If they’re taking the bus, make sure they know their bus information, which stop they are at, and where they can find the bus after school. Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop completely before approaching, walk where the driver can see them, and always look both ways before crossing the street. Also, instill the importance of using a seatbelt on the bus and staying seated until it stops.

Share the Shopping

Back-to-school shopping may be a chore for parents, but it can be fun for kids. As you shop for their school supplies, backpack, lunchbox, clothes, and shoes, let them in on the decision-making. Choosing sparkly pencils or a superhero backpack can help them get psyched for school. And naturally, they’ll want a say in their clothes, which can help them feel confident and self-assured on the first day back.

Make Food Plans

Your growing kiddo will need plenty of breakfast, lunch, and snack options. You definitely want to start them off right every morning with a healthy breakfast — it’s been shown that kids who eat a nutritious breakfast have better concentration and more energy. Of course, you have to balance providing a good breakfast with the reality of being on time, so plan ahead for quick meals. The same goes for after-school snacks — you’ll want something pre-approved and easy to grab before they dig into their homework. Just like clothes shopping, involve your child in food planning so they can feel good about what they’re eating throughout the day.

Create a Homework Area

Elementary school students are just starting to get the hang of studying and doing homework on their own. You’ll want them to have their own quiet, comfortable space, free from any distractions like TVs or phones, so they can concentrate and work efficiently. You can be on hand to help out as needed, help them prioritize, and review their assignments, but resist the urge to jump in all the time or correct their work.

Set Up an Evening Routine

You’ll want to set expectations for your child’s after-school routine. Will they come home and have a snack? Dive into homework? Have a little time to decompress? No matter your plan, come up with a schedule before their first day and ensure everyone is on the same page. From there, stick to the routine as much as possible to help the evening go smoothly and establish some structure for your child.

Ask and Listen

Above all, make sure to keep the lines of communication open. Some kids might have anxiety or fears about going back-to-school, so check in with them regularly before school starts and throughout the year. Ask them not only about what they’re learning but how they feel about their teachers, friends, classmates, homework, extracurricular activities, and anything else they want to talk about.

And of course, on the first day of school, don’t forget to snap a picture (or 20) of your little one. You could even have them hold a chalkboard listing their age, grade, teacher’s name, and some of their favorite things. Doing this each year will be a fun and priceless keepsake to display ever-so-proudly.