Few things in life are as bittersweet as back-to-school time for kiddos. On the one hand, you may have been your child’s personal snack butler all summer while listening to iterations of “I’m bored” over and over. On the other, perhaps the summer flew by, and your sun-kissed cutie is starting school for the first time. Whether it is your first time taking your child to school or the very last year you’ll ever do so, a certain amount of emotions and anxieties surround the event for you and your child. Though I can’t promise a hassle-free year (or even a stress-free one), there are a few ways to ease into the school year and make back to school more sweet than bitter.
Ultimate Back-to-School Checklist
School Supplies Shopping List
Make supply shopping fun again. There is something incredibly magical about new school supplies. Adults love a good planner or stationery set, too: it promises a new beginning and a fresh start in a way nothing else can. Make school supply shopping a fun family tradition. Let them buy the gaudy, hideous folders you’d never use and encourage them to select a (sturdy) book bag with some flavor-of-the-week cartoon character if they so choose. And go out for dinner or have a frozen pizza at home while chatting about school and their hopes for the year together. Not only will this become something they look forward to, but it will provide an incredible memory that relates excitement with education: that’s a win-win for everyone involved. Passion and excitement for education can lead to a lifelong love of learning and your child’s success in school.
We all know the good stuff goes on sale directly after the end of a season, right? Depending on the store, the end of the season means the first week of August, which could lead to some big-time savings for your family. Certain supplies, like pencils, paper, erasers, and crayons, can be bought in bulk at bigger chain stores, which means you can get a couple of years’ worth of the more boring supplies at a time, which gives everyone more time to focus on which lizard monster they’d like to build a shrine to by way of folders and notebooks in their backpacks. Here’s a great basic list to build off of based on your child’s age and stage in school:
- 2 boxes of 24 crayons
- 1 box of washable markers
- 2 black dry-erase markers
- 2 packs of pencils
- 1 pencil pouch with zipper
- 10 glue sticks
- 5 wedge/pencil top erasers
- 4 wide-ruled composition books
- 2 solid-colored pocket folders
- 1 book bag with no wheels (most schools are anti-wheeled bags unless otherwise noted!)
- 2 boxes of tissues
- 1 box plastic sandwich bags
- 1 hand sanitizer
And most importantly? Grab special after-school snacks!
I was a latchkey kid, personally, and loved coming home from a long and arduous school day in the ’90s (NOT painstaking compared to adulthood, as it turns out) to a handful of solid snacks to eat while I did my homework. I plopped down my bookbag and kicked off my shoes to savor the flavor of my packet of dunkaroos and my favorite tv shows. Whether your kiddo will come home to no one or everyone, growing children need calories! While fruit and veggies are always a great option, let them pick out a few pantry staple snacks on the last grocery trip before school starts back. After all, it’s one less thing you’ll have to do when the year gets into a groove!
Back to School Clothes Shopping List
The sky is the limit for back-to-school clothes shopping—or your budget and kiddo’s tolerance for trying on clothes. It’s important to go into the year with things that get your child excited for the day, and one of the best ways to do that is with a fresh back-to-school outfit or pair of shoes. Beyond that, once your little scholar can wear a few things between grade levels, it is always a good idea to grab only a handful of staple pieces that need replacing from last year. Be on the lookout for end-of-season sales again, and take advantage if you are in one of the states that offer a tax-free weekend to get an even better deal on back-to-school fashion and accessories.
Back To School To-Do List
1. Contact Their Teachers
As a current teacher and parent, I can’t tell you how incredible it is to have parent support from the jump. It shows us that you’re willing to partner with us in your child’s education, but it also helps diminish nervousness on both sides and form a good working relationship. Call your school if they don’t let you know your child’s teacher in advance (one week before the first day is within reason), make like a polar bear, and break that ice. Speaking of ice, we like iced coffee—a lot.
2. Address Learning Gaps Early & Often
While speaking with teachers, make sure you are your child’s number one advocate: let the teacher know of any concerns you might have so they can address them correctly and with the right resources. We promise we would rather hear common concerns and “no big deal” instead of radio silence when it matters. It is normal for kindergarten students not to be able to read or tie their shoes but imagine the surprise my friend experienced when finding out one of her fourth-grade students couldn’t do either with a new student coming from out of state. No one likes this kind of surprise, and it is not helpful to your child or their teacher to hold back from giving them critical information that could help them educate your child.
3. Take a First Day Picture
For some reason, everyone has been hating on first-day pictures lately. I wish I had something as sweet and cheesy to reflect on as these precious mementos, and chances are your child will be grateful you endured their groans and sighing to get that perfect snapshot. If you are fortunate enough to have a younger child entering elementary school, chances are they will relish the opportunity to show off their fun new outfit, pigtails, or light-up shoes. It’s both encouraging and sad when you realize your child is the youngest they’ll ever be at this moment: don’t be so easily swayed by those middle and high school kids begging you not to take a picture that you miss the opportunity to lovingly irritate your children and capture it all on your phone.
4. Write Them a Note
If your kiddo can read, a note tucked into their lunchbox or waiting for them in their backpack can make their whole day. From my experience as a teacher, children desire and seek independence but will also look for their parents in the crowd on awards day. They’ll talk about you as though you’re not of this earth and somehow possess magical powers (if this is the case, could you please magically respond to my emails?!), and despite their best efforts to seem too cool for you to snuggle them or kiss them, they are always going to want and need you. I might be their school parent, but you are their forever parent, and they will cherish a small note, a kind word, or a first-day bear hug forever.