Want to start the school year on the right foot? We have six back-to-school tips you’d want to know about, plus the secret to having a successful school routine.

One minute, you and your family are enjoying summer picnics, barbecues and days at the pool. The next, it’s the week before school starts and you’ve just realised how long your to-do list is!

These five tips from our supermum Michelle will help make that transition from holidays to school a lot easier. (And there’s a bonus sixth tip after that!)

1. Make paper cutouts of your kids’ feet

Taking kids shoe shopping can be a nightmare for a mum. And I have nine! So I just use paper cutouts of their feet. This allows me to buy shoes when they are not with me, saving time and money. I often buy shoes that are on sale this way.

2. Eating fruit can be fun

Having trouble getting your kids to eat fruit? Googly eyes make everything fun! When I’m packing the kids’ lunches, I often stick googly eyes on their pieces of fruit. They get a real kick out of it when they open their lunchboxes.

3. You’ve got mail . . .

Do your kids have a tendency to lose permission forms or any other notes that come from school? You can solve that with a “mailbox” in their schoolbag. This is a mini file folder that they carry in their bags—any notes from school go straight into this folder. I then sign their forms, pop it back in their mailbox and it goes back to school. It works especially well for primary-aged kids.

4. Homework-ready

Kids will do anything to put off doing their homework. “But Mum, I can’t find my pencil . . .” So I have a designated homework station for the younger kids. They have their own table with plenty of pencils, textas, crayons and other supplies for homework and assignments.

5. Teenager timetable

It’s not easy to keep track of class timetables, especially when you’re a teenager and have different subjects in different classrooms every day. I’ve found it helpful for my teenagers to set their school timetable as their phone screensaver. It’s easily accessible and such a time-saver.

The secret to a successful back-to-school routine

Yellow toy school box on a table: Back-to-school tips

University of South Australia researcher and sleep expert Dr Alex Agostini says a good sleep routine is important for children’s emotional, physical and mental health. It’s also the perfect back-to-school tip, especially once the school holidays are over.

“There are lots of positives that come with the school holidays—there are fewer time pressures, kids get to have a well-earned break from school and families spend more time together—but hand-in-hand with the holidays also comes irregular sleep, which can have an impact on children’s behaviours and abilities to operate well at school,” Dr Alex says.

“Staying up late, watching TV and playing on computers, iPads or phones, are all common holiday activities, but as we enter a new school term, it’s time to initiate better sleep routines.

“A good night’s sleep is important for kids. Research shows that good sleep helps them regulate their emotions and concentrate—no-one wants a cranky kid or an after-school tantrum. Sleep also helps to regulate the hormones that initiate hunger—which helps children eat at the right time and function better throughout the day.”

Bonus back-to-school tip #6: Moving their bedtime a little earlier each night

Dr Alex says it’s best to ease your child back into the school schedule by changing their bedtimes and sleep routines over a week or so before school so that their body can gradually adjust.

“By moving your child’s bedtime five or 10 minutes earlier each night, you can help them get used to a new routine, without the shock factor that can come from adjusting bedtime just the night before,” Dr Alex says.

Read: Why your child should have an early bedtime

“It’s also helpful to start waking kids slightly earlier each day as this will help them feel tired enough to go to sleep on time. When kids sleep-in they don’t have enough drive for sleep at night, and generally struggle to fall asleep, regardless of their bedtime.

“A good sleep routine—doing the same thing every night before bed—helps the body learn when it’s time to go to sleep. For school-aged kids, this could include a warm bath or shower, followed by a book in bed, but it can be different for each child.

“Getting kids involved in designing their own pre-sleep wind-down routines will help them feel more in charge and should help improve adherence to the new night-time schedules.

“Having the whole family put screens away or off before bed is a great way to encourage healthy bedtime behaviours for everyone. Not only is the light from these devices not conducive to sleep, but they also don’t have a set ‘end time’, which means it’s easy to keep playing games or messaging friends.

“Of course, changing behaviours can be hard. Persistence is key, and parents must remember that by establishing positive sleep routines, they’re setting their kids up for success.”

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