Ahhh, the lazy days of summer, that magical time of year when kids unplug, unwind and well, just do what kids do! Schedules are shattered with late night s'mores, sleepovers and movie marathons. But the dog days of summer are flying by and the task of having to rise with the sun, look remotely human and pay attention in school all day will soon be here for our kiddos.
Here are 12 tips to help ease the transition and get your children up and at 'em for the first day of school.
Reset the Body Clock
Easing your kids back to a school-year schedule will ensure they show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. My daughter's bedtime seems to get later as the summer progresses. Her schedule also tends to get a little out of whack. In August, we make a gradual effort to get back into the school schedule. Calculate the hour at which your children will need to get up in order to get to school on time and count backward nine or more hours. That is the fall-asleep time once school starts. About two weeks before school starts, move bedtime up about 20 minutes every three days. Have your children practice getting up and getting dressed at the same time every morning. By the time school starts, they should be back on a normal sleep schedule.
Re-Establish School Routines
Start eating breakfast, lunch and snacks around the times your children will eat when school is in session. To break summer habits like relaxing in PJs all morning long, get them used to leaving the house in the morning a week or two before school.
It almost always takes more time than you think to get ready for school, especially when the unexpected happens. "Rehearse" packing lunches in the morning so you will know how much extra time it will take and what lunch supplies you will need. Do a "dry run" of the new morning routine with your children, whether it's walking to the bus stop or driving to school to see how much time it will take.
Re-Establish Learning Activities
Hopefully, your kids have been doing some sort of learning activity during the summer. But if you've fallen off the bandwagon, now is the time to hop back on. Have your children read 20 minutes a day. Get online and play math games appropriate for their grade level. This gets them back into learning mode and can reduce the time spent re-learning.
Get School Supplies
It seems back-to-school supply sales are happening earlier every year. That means you can score some great deals mid-summer and not have to fight crowds the week before school starts. Monitor the weekly ads of your favorite store. Many will have "penny deals" or specials. Go once a week to take advantage of those deals. Since you're shopping early, you don't have to buy everything at once and you can save a bundle! And consider picking up a few extra supplies so that your children's teachers have plenty of necessities — whether it's glue sticks or tissues — on hand in the classroom.
Clean out Closets and Plan a Wardrobe
In mid-July, my daughter and I go through her closet and clean out the outgrown, over-worn or just plain ugly pieces she's been hanging onto in the deep crevices of her closet. We see what fits and what is still fashionable from last year and look for "holes" in her wardrobe (in other words, what's missing). Then, instead of buying things all willy-nilly, we make a plan after we've cleaned out her closet. You'll save time, money and avoid stress. I shop the summer clearance racks to fill in the holes in her wardrobe as she wears summer clothes through October in Texas. Next I shop fall clearance racks to fill the gaps through winter; then the Christmas clearance. This way, I'm buying all her clothes at a huge discount and not spending a bundle on her wardrobe.
Phase Out Naptime for Kindergarteners
Who doesn't love when children take naps? But it's time to begin decreasing naptime so youngsters will be ready for a full day of school without a nap.
Mentally Prepare Your Child
Going to school can be just plain scary for some children. It's important to talk with them about the positives, like meeting new friends. If you have a child who is especially anxious, it might help to find a buddy or plan a summertime playdate with someone he or she can walk with to school or ride with on the bus for the first day and the rest of the year.
Check out the School
Every year I take my daughter to the "Meet the Teacher" event. It's important that she gets to see the school and meet her teacher so she is more comfortable the first day.
Create a Launch Pad and a Workplace
Designate a spot at home where school things like backpacks and lunch boxes always go to avoid last-minute scrambles in the morning. Set up study stations long before school starts. Find a place where your children can focus. Many students find it helpful to have a desk filled with supplies in a quiet place. That way, they have somewhere peaceful and well-stocked to work.
Now is the time to get appointments out of the way. Schedule routine doctor checkups or sports physicals and dentist appointments in the weeks leading up to the first day of school. Make sure kids are up to date on immunizations. You don't want to disrupt your children from school, especially during the first few months if it's not necessary.
Whether your children will be eating cafeteria food, bringing a sack lunch or a mixture of both, it's important to plan ahead. I print out the cafeteria menu each month and have my daughter circle the days that she wants to eat at school. On the other days, I pack her lunch. When I shop for her lunches, I stick to the grocery list and try to include a variety of healthy options.
With a little planning now, your children can be ready for back to school. How do you get yours ready for returning to school?
Laura Thornquist, North Texas mother to Nicholas and Ava, shares ways to save and live in the Metroplex — scattered with straightforward, honest and down-to-earth advice on being a mommy and wife while still taking the time to treat yourself — on her blog, MyDFWMommy.