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10 Strategies Parents Can Use for an Easy Back to School Transition

Aug 1, 2023

child drawing at school

When that final school bell rings in May, it’s time to relax and, perhaps, let strict schedules fall by the wayside. Maybe your kids go to bed and wake up a little later. Maybe they don’t eat meals at regular times.

And why not? Summer gives kids a time to experience the world around them in new ways, outside of the classroom.

One thing is for sure, the last thing your kids—and probably you—want to think about is the coming August.

But as the first day of school approaches, it’s important to take the time to reestablish sleeping and eating habits, and to get kids back into an academic mindset.

If your child has difficulties making transitions, we have some tips to help you support them as they get ready to go back to school.

1. Read and Review Anything the School Sent Home

Your school may send home suggested—or even required—summer reading, as well as math exercises. It’s important to read over these and help your child complete the work before the first day of school.

Now is the time to get them extra help if they need it. Check out tutoring services or just sit with them yourself to go over lessons.

Additionally, read over school supply lists, registration requirements, and instructions to sign up for any online portals or apps well ahead of time.

2. Get in Touch with Their Teacher

Take some time to reach out and introduce yourself to their new teachers. You can discuss your child’s school experience so far, their favorite subjects, and where they need support.

If your child has special needs, you can take this opportunity to ensure they are addressed in the new classroom.

3. Take Your Kids School Supply Shopping

Sure, you can get all the supplies online, but your child might get more excited about school if they can choose their own folders, pencils, and crayons. If you can, take them shopping to pick out their own supplies.

If online is better, sit with them and have them choose supplies from Amazon, Staples, or Walmart.

Pro Tip: If you are going out, do your shopping as soon as you can. Many stores get their school supplies by mid-summer and they’ve been known to get low by the end of August.

4. Reconnect with Classmates

Summers can get pretty busy. It’s easy to lose touch with your child’s classmates and their families when everyone is taking vacations and jumping from one activity to another.

Take some time to reconnect with classmates and book some playdates. Your children will love catching up, and the transition to school will go much more smoothly if they can anticipate school together.

5. Establish a Sleep Schedule

The longer days of summer lend themselves to later bedtimes, especially if there’s no camp or summer school to get to the next day.

To avoid sleepy kids and late starts, establish a sleep schedule two to three weeks before the first day of school. Set a reasonable bedtime based on the amount of sleep your child typically needs, and stick to it.

When the first day of school arrives, make sure there is a routine that prepares kids for the next day. If they shower at night, give them time to do that before bedtime. Have them choose their clothes and pack their backpack, too.

6. Create a Morning Routine

To keep everyone on time, establish a morning schedule, as well. A routine gives children structure to their day. If they know what to expect and what’s expected of them, they can move through transitions more easily.

You know how long it takes your kids to get up and get going in the morning. Choose a wakeup time that gives them enough time to eat, dress, and get out the door.

If it helps, print out a schedule and post it where everyone can see it. You could also create a checklist on a white board, where kids can check off each task to make sure they don’t miss anything, or forget any items they need for school.

7. Build Healthy Eating Habits

Part of that morning routine should include a healthy breakfast that will give your kids the energy and focus they need for school. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “eating breakfast may help children do better in school by improving memory, alertness, concentration, problem-solving ability, test scores, school attendance, and mood.”

A healthy breakfast includes fruit, whole grains, skim milk, and protein such as eggs.

To keep that energy going, pack healthy lunches and make sure kids eat a well-rounded dinner before bed, too.

8. Let Your Kids Help with Lunch

Speaking of lunches, let your kids choose some of their favorites to go into the weekly rotation. They’ll be more likely to eat something they really enjoy, and they’ll like being a part of the process.

9. Create a Study/Homework Area

Find a designated spot for each of your children to study and do their homework. Give them a space that’s quiet and away from distractions, with a comfortable chair and good lighting. And make sure it’s stocked with the supplies they need, including

  • Pens, pencils, and pencil sharpeners
  • Glue, tape, scissors, and other craft supplies
  • Crayons and markers for younger kids
  • Paper
  • A calculator

Basically, you want to make sure everything they need to complete their work is in one spot, so they don’t waste time searching the house for the things they’re missing.

10. Use Websites to Review Lessons

When August rolls around, your children may have a little trouble recalling some of the lessons they learned the previous year.

To jog their memories, look for online worksheets or learning websites. There are plenty of online resources that are fun and full of information for every age group.

Here are just a few:

  • Outschool offers classes on a variety of topics, from math and English to languages and music lessons. The classes are usually inexpensive and classes meet live online.
  • Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that offers classes for all age groups and in a variety of subjects.
  • PBS Kids provides free videos, games, and other resources for kids up to age 8.
  • National Geographic Kids also provides free games, videos, and craft activities for kids between 6 and 14 years old.

Special Steps for Kindergarteners

Kindergarten may be the first time your child has encountered a school setting. Even if they attended daycare or pre-K, however, there are still a lot of new things to get used to when a kid starts kindergarten.

To get your kindergartener ready, take these steps, as well:

  • Take advantage of open houses or kindergarten orientation, so your child can see their classroom and meet their teacher and classmates.
  • If necessary, tour the building and ensure the needs of your child are met, including access to the building, as well as the right kind of resources, and support.
  • If you know other families in your child’s class, plan some playdates so kids can meet each other beforehand.
  • Read books about going to kindergarten to help them get used to the idea. Some books you might want to check out include Kindergarten Here I Come, If You Take a Mouse to School, and The Queen of Kindergarten.

You know your kids better than anyone, and you know how they’ll react to going back to school. Perhaps you could see some of these strategies working for you and your family, but others seem less realistic.

Take the tips that will help your children make a smooth transition, adjust them to fit your family, or use these as a springboard to come up with your own. If you’re concerned about how your child responds during transitions, it may be time to reach out to our occupational therapists.

With a little planning, the transition back to school doesn’t have to be stressful. It can actually be fun!