Your Back-to-School Countdown

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Everyone’s still enjoying the lazy days of summer, but school will be here before you know it. Here’s a week-by-week schedule to follow to make sure your family’s fall transition goes smoothly.

Six weeks before:

The important stuff:

  • If your child is starting a new school, make sure they are registered and fill out any paperwork that might be required.
  • Check to see what vaccines your child’s school requires, then make an appointment with your pediatrician for a back-to-school physical.
  • If you haven’t already, this is now the time to get your child’s after-school care situation sorted out and, if you need, to find an after-school babysitter.

The fun stuff:

  • Start thinking about one last summer trip! (See Three Weeks, below.)

5 weeks before:

The important stuff:

  • Most schools provide a checklist for school supplies. Start scoping out the back-to-school sale dates at your favorite retailers so you can get the best deals, and shop with your child so they can pick out their favorite colors and characters for their folders, binders and other items.
  • Also keep an eye out for back-to-school clothing sales so your child has some new outfits to wear. Work with your child to choose a “first day of school outfit” that will boost their confidence on that first day back.
  • If your child’s school requires uniforms, it’s time to start shopping for those as well. Some schools allow kids a little bit of flexibility with items like hair ribbons and socks — see what they’ll permit and shop accordingly for a few fun items.

The fun stuff:

  • Indulge your kiddo in one super-fun feel-good item, even if it’s not that practical for school. Fuzzy pom-pom pens, anyone?

4 weeks before:

 The important stuff:

  • Arrange some classmate play dates. For older children, this means reconnecting with school friends they may not have seen over the summer so that they feel a bit more relaxed on the first day back. Have a younger child who’s just starting school? If they’re going to a neighborhood school, try to connect with neighbors whose children will be in the same class as yours. Some schools have summer open houses, too; reach out to the parents you meet there and see if they’d be interested in meeting up at the park or another casual, low-pressure play date.
  • Does your child need to brush up on any school subjects because of the summer slump? Many after-school sitters are also children’s tutors who can bring them up to speed.

The fun stuff:

  • Is there anything left on your summer bucket list? A new ice cream shop you’ve been meaning to try? A day trip to a water park? Now’s the time to do it!

3 weeks before:

The important stuff:

  • If your older child is in summer camp, it’s probably ended by now. This gap time between camp ending and school starting is the perfect time to plan one last family getaway. The weather’s still nice, your child doesn’t have any homework to worry about, and you can travel on weekdays without missing class. So go camping, hang out by the lake or go visit Grandma in another state. It’s important for everyone to rest and relax before the school year’s hustle and bustle starts.
  • Sign up for any after-school activities your child would like to be enrolled in. Remember, many after-school sitters can help with transportation to and from dance class or soccer practices.

The fun stuff:

  • Nothing big to add here — we hope your family getaway is extra fun!

2 weeks before:

The important stuff:

  • Set up a family launch pad to prevent any “Mommy, I can’t find my…” delays to the morning rush. There are tons of ways to do this that can even work in the smallest spaces; try searching for “family launch pad” on Pinterest for some great visual ideas.
  • Kids often sleep late and go to bed late during the lazy days of summer. But if that school bus is going to be coming at 7:45, they’ll be in for a rude (early) awakening. Start waking your child up early to reset their internal clocks. They may be crabby for a few days, but they’ll start going to bed earlier and eventually adjust. Providing morning incentives to get out of bed may work too (even if it’s just the wafting smell of pancakes and bacon).

The fun stuff:

  • Do some fun school-themed crafts to get your child excited about school. Again, Pinterest is a gold mine for this kind of stuff; search for “back to school crafts” for dozens of ideas.

One week before:

The important stuff:

  • If your child packs a lunch, start meal planning so you can go on autopilot when you’re packing lunches the night before, and your child doesn’t end up with a PB&J every day. We know how hard this is when you’re a parent of a picky eater, so if you can manage to find five lunchtime meals that your kid will actually eat, then just do them over and over again each week. Kids like routines anyway. They’ll be perfectly happy with “Cheese-Sandwich Tuesdays” with a smiley-face note attached.
  • For kindergarteners, do a dry run of the morning drive / bus ride route / walk to school. If you child has never taken the bus before, answer any questions they might have and reassure them that it’s a safe (and fun!) way to travel.

The fun stuff:

The Night Before:

The important stuff:

  • Put out your child’s first-day outfit, pack their lunch and backpack, and set your morning alarm 15 minutes earlier so that everything goes smoothly.

The fun stuff:

  • Make a “first day of [insert grade here]” sign for your child to hold up for a picture in the morning — you’ll both treasure these happy memories in the future!