If you’re lamenting the end of summer and preparing your kids for this new school year, then this is for you. Also, if you are so glad summer is almost over because your kids are driving you crazy and you can’t even bear the thought of another day of making up toilet paper-roll crafts and breaking up sword fights in the kitchen, then this is for you too.
As a teacher and a mom, I have a comprehensive perspective of both sides of the fence when it comes to all things back-to-school. Here are a few tips (in no specific order) to help you and your little one get off to a great start this school year.
Tip #1: Be choosey about how you check off the items on that gigantic “supply list” your child’s school handed you.
If a teacher is specific about a certain type or amount of pencils or markers they want, you should try to get that type and amount. They are probably specific because they use the item often and want each child in their class to have exactly what they will need. It might also be an item that gets shared throughout the class. If each child brings in the same kind, then no one complains that the pencil Jimmy broke was one of theirs.
In addition, if your kid’s teacher doesn’t specify a scissor type, I STRONGLY suggest pointed-tip child scissors. Your Kindergarten through second-grade student will probably spend a portion of every day cutting things out. Those tiny little rounded tip safety scissors are horribly difficult to cut corners and rounded edges with. Your student might be better off just tearing their papers.
For other things, like liquid glue or reams of paper, find the best price you can and go for it. It’s always great to shop the ads and try to hit any sales or tax-free events! If you already have supplies (like that pencil box or pair of scissors from last year), send them in. There’s no need to buy brand-new items every year.
Tip #2: Make sure your little one is in the habit of getting plenty of sleep.
Try to get your kiddo into a great sleep schedule as soon as possible. This will help them start every day on the right foot. The Sleep Foundation suggests that preschool kids need about 10-13 hours of sleep per day and children ages 6-13 need about 9-11 hours per day. If you’re expecting to wake your six year old up at 7 am, it would be great to have them in bed and sleeping around 8 pm. (I know, easier said than done!) Sleep plays such a vital role in the positive interactions and learning opportunities children encounter during their school day. The more rested they are, the more likely they are to exhibit positive behaviors and form friendships. (But no judgment here for any mamas whose little ones are still running around at 10:30 pm on a Monday. It happens to all of us on occasion.)
Tip #3: Make sure you have a good plan for your child to have a healthy breakfast and lunch AND water throughout the day.
Eating well and eating enough is a huge deal for kids. Every child is different and has differing needs. But every child needs to have food in their stomach in order for their brain to function. If your kid is anything like my son Lukas, then the type and amount of food they eat also impacts their behavior.
If you are planning to rely on your child’s school to keep them well-fed during the day, I encourage you to check out https://www.choosemyplate.gov/kids especially the “My Plate Guide To School Lunch” (and breakfast). Talk to your child about the different food choices available at school. Make sure they know which are the healthiest. Hopefully, they’ll make great choices!
Also, be sure to check with your child’s teacher about the types of water bottles approved for the classroom. Be sure to send one in, clearly labeled with your child’s name on it. And, hopefully, they’ll drink LOTS of water and drive their teacher crazy asking to go to the bathroom all day long!
Tip #4: Make a plan for how your little one is getting home every day.
One of the most stressful parts for teachers during the first few days in Kindergarten and first grade is figuring out how every child is getting home at the end of the day. Most students are dropped off by their parents, lugging in tons of supplies on the first day. Then the parents kiss their babies and leave for the day. The kids assume that they will leave the same way they got there. But that’s not even an option at most school sites. Be sure you talk with your little one about how they will leave at the end of the first day.
And be consistent (as much as possible). If they are going to ride the bus home on a regular basis, they should do that the first day. I can’t stress enough how important routines and familiarity are. If you do have to switch things up, be sure to send a note to the teacher using whatever communication method your teacher has designated.
Try to keep the switch-ups routine as well. For instance, Mon/Wed/Fri with Grandpa at pick-up or Tues/Thurs on the bus. No matter how your child is getting home, be sure you have talked with them about it ahead of time. And be sure to let the teacher know as well. We get nervous when our name is called over the loudspeaker because a kiddo has ended up in the wrong pick-up area.
Tip #5: Introduce yourself and your child to the teacher and be sure to communicate often.
You and your child’s teachers will have a lot in common this school year. On weekdays, many kids spend almost as much time with their teachers and classmates as they do with their families. In order to reach your child’s goals, it’s super important to have open lines of communication between all parties involved.
The first day of school is usually a wild, exciting, and chaotic time for all involved. All the kids and parents are bringing in supplies, greeting each other, and introducing themselves to the teacher. I am so embarrassed to say that I can’t even tell you how many times a parent has introduced themselves to me during that first 30-minute window, and I can’t even remember their name or what their face looks like by the end of that first day. It’s easier to remember everyone’s names when the information comes at a peaceful time. I suggest signing up for whatever type of communication method the teacher suggests. Then take a few minutes to tell the teacher a little about your child and your family. If possible, add a picture of you and your kiddo together.
Throughout the year, remember that you are your child’s advocate.
If you want information or to check up on a situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher. Just do me a favor and be sure to remember that the teacher has your child’s best interests at heart. There is often more than one child’s story involved in anything going on in the classroom. Teachers aren’t allowed to discuss other children or other parents with you. They also might have another side to the story that your child didn’t see, and they can help you and your child understand how to make things better.
If you ever find out that the teacher did something awesome for your little one, send them a THANK YOU! Sometimes we feel like we only hear from parents when something is wrong. There also may be times when you or your child is upset with the teacher over something that happened. It’s important to calmly work those things out as soon as possible so that YOUR CHILD’S SAFETY AND EDUCATION can always be a top priority!
Tip #6: Take time to stop and smell the roses.
Sometimes it’s hard to watch your teeny tiny baby grow up and do big things. But it’s also one of the most amazing things EVER! Your little one is learning, growing, and changing every day. Slow down and enjoy their excitement and the newness of everything they are experiencing. I for one am super excited to watch my own babies transform into readers this year. And also maybe Lukas will learn to tie his shoes. You should be super jealous of me . . . because I get to spend all day, every day, watching kids learn amazing things!
Chime in! What’s your best advice on how to have the best school year yet? (We need all the help we can get!)
Originally published August 2017.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.