Want to start the new school year on the right foot? We have eight 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!
We share some of back-to-school tips that will help make that transition from holidays to school a lot easier. There’s also a bonus tip from sleep researcher and expert Dr Alex Agostini on how to create a great routine.
1. Make paper cutouts of your kids’ feet
Taking kids shoe shopping can be a nightmare for a mum. Instead, just use paper cutouts of their feet. This allows you to buy shoes when they’re are not with you, saving time and money. If you’re lucky, you can even buy shoes that are on sale this way.
It’s important that the shoes fit correctly and are comfortable, as they will impact your child’s foot development and posture. Don’t try to save money by purchasing shoes they can “grow into” as these can create more trouble than they are worth. Remember to always save receipts for school purchases in case you need to return anything.
2. Eating fruit can be fun
Having trouble getting your kids to eat fruit? Googly eyes make everything fun! When packing the kids’ lunches, stick googly eyes on their pieces of fruit. They’ll 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. You can then sign their forms, pop it back in their mailbox and it goes back to school. It works especially well for primary-aged kids.
Kids will do anything to put off doing their homework. “But Mum, I can’t find my pencil . . .” So have a designated homework station for the younger kids. If possible, give them their own table (or space) 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. You could set their school timetable as their phone screensaver. It’s easily accessible and can be a time-saver.
6. Start before Christmas
Rather than wait until late January right before school starts, it’s best to shop while school sales are happening. The perfect time is during Christmas and New Year’s sales when there are a wide range of products and educational resources sold at heavily discounted prices.
You can also ask family to give school supplies (think pencil cases, diaries and other stationery items) as Christmas presents.
7. Buy secondhand or dupes
You can often save a lot of money buying secondhand textbooks or school uniform dupes (that is, school uniform for department stores such as Target and Kmart instead of the uniform shop). It does require a bit of planning though.
If your child is in primary school, the textbook requirements can often be purchased from the school or locally at a school supply store. However, high school textbooks usually require some pre-ordering online and can be expensive.
If you leave yourself enough time, you might be able to look around for some secondhand copies or buy one from a parent who doesn’t need it anymore. Just be sure to check version or edition numbers.
Your child’s school uniform is one of the biggest investments for the start of the school year, so it’s important for it to be right. Do a stocktake of what uniform pieces you already have, either from the previous school year or from an older sibling. Check over them to ensure they don’t need repairs or are stained. Have your child try the uniform items. You have to confirm what you can and can’t use for the new term.
Don’t forget to check the school’s latest uniform policy. This is in case any items are no longer needed or if new requirements have been added. You often don’t have to buy every single item on the school uniform list such as beanies and scarves, especially if you know your child won’t wear them.
Think about which items will get the most wear. Day-to-day items like tops, shorts, skirts and socks will be used the most. You may need more of these. Usually, most parents can get away with two sets of uniforms. However, if you are strapped for time, consider getting three.
Remember, you can call on your school community for assistance. Often, other parents will sell outgrown uniforms that are in good condition at discounted prices. Some schools also have secondhand items for purchase, you just might need to ask.
If the uniform items don’t have the school logo printed, you may also be able to buy lookalikes at a fraction of the price at shops such as Kmart and Target.
The secret to a successful back-to-school routine for young people
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, when young minds need to get back into a routine.
“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 #8: Move 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.
“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.”
You’ve got this
With a little bit of thinking ahead and a sprinkle of creativity, you and your kids can have a great time getting ready for the new school year. You might just surprise yourself with how organised you can be.
Want more back-to-school tips?
- Easy school lunchbox ideas
- Helpful tips for coming back to primary school
- Is your child’s after school care doing more harm than good?
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