"Prepping for a different kind of back to school" by Karen Robock

Your ultimate guide to prepping for back to school
Your ultimate guide to prepping for back to school

In most areas of the country kids are headed back to school after Labour Day. But even if your little ones are doing distance learning – or you’re opting to homeschool for a while – you’ll still need a return-to-learning game plan. (And we thought back-to-school was stressful pre-pandemic!)

Here’s your no-fail guide to getting your kids ready for back-to-school – whatever that looks like at your house.

Phase 1

Do a clothing cull: Sort through your kids’ dressers and closets to figure out what still fits and what needs replacing for fall. If you’re passing items down from older children, it’s a good idea to scan your hand-me-down inventory before you fill in clothing gaps for younger kids. (There’s no point doubling up on jeans, jackets and sweaters, if you’ve got great items waiting in storage.)

Don’t forget to take stock of all the other back-to-school gear, including backpacks, lunch bags, reusable food containers, water bottles and indoor shoes. Then there’s the “new normal” school gear: travel-size hand sanitizer (containing 60 to 90 percent USP alcohol) you can clip to their backpack, a set of washable face masks and ideally a little pouch they can store their mask in when not in use. Plus, you’ll need name labels for all of it!

Once you know what you really need to purchase, it’s time to shop – preferably online. COVID-era back-to-school shopping won’t look quite like the casual trip to the mall of previous years, but it can still be fun. Get kids involved by inviting them to write out a wish list and help you build a shopping cart at some of your favourite e-retailers.

Book health checks: make sure your kids’ immunizations are up to date. You should also check if they are due for an eye exam. The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends kids are seen before they start kindergarten and then annually from ages 6 through 19. If exams are needed, inquire about new COVID-19 safety procedures (like mask wearing and waiting room protocols) ahead of your visit.

Phase 2

Get back into a bedtime routine: There’s always a pre-back-to-school adjustment period as we head into the end of summer, and late nights and leisurely mornings come to an end. But let’s be honest: returning to a routine this September is going to be more difficult than ever. Many families have probably been on relatively loose schedules since COVID lock-down back in March and those typical school mornings are a distant memory.

Organize your entryway: Even if the rest of your house still looks COVID-era lived-in, your mud room or front hallway needs to be ship-shape for back-to-school. Organizational experts agree that the best way to get kids on board with hanging up backpacks and jackets is to do it like they do at school. Create space for a labelled hook and basket or bin for every family member. (You can even get your kids to write their own chalkboard labels – it looks super cute and gives them a sense of ownership over their space). This way there’s no confusion about where to stash their coats, backpacks and shoes after school – or where to find their stuff on school mornings.

Drop hints: We don’t want to ruin the summer magic, but kids need time to process the impending change that back-to-school brings. Especially since they might find this return to school especially stressful after so many months away from their teachers, classrooms and friends. Chat about what’s going to be great about the return to school and get ready for some big emotions and lots of questions about September.

Phase 3

Consider a dry run: Whether your kid is prepping for their first-ever first day, or they’re heading back as the big kid on the playground, all students could use a refresher on their route to school. Bike, walk or drive to the school or bus stop to reacquaint them with the routine. While you’re there, encourage your kids to explore the yard and play on the equipment (if its open) to get them comfortable ahead of the first day.

Make a lunch menu: Even after many months off of making school lunches, you’re probably still not feeling jazzed about the task. Do yourself a favour and simplify things by creating menu list of mains, sides and snacks you can rotate through day after day. Keep it in your phone for easy reference, then head to the store to stock up on all you’ll need for the first week. You’ll probably still need to pop out for some last-minute essentials before the big day, but you do not want to be stuck in a line at the grocery store the long weekend before school starts.

Practice good hand washing: According to the Guidance for School Reopening document released last month from SickKids hospital, helping kids master good hand hygiene will be key this fall. There will likely be age-appropriate instructional signage in most classrooms as well as many assisted handwashing and hand sanitizer breaks throughout the day. But, if you can get your kid practiced up before day one, you’ll be giving them an important head start. Remind them to use lots of soap and warm water and to scrub both the palms and tops of hands, as well as between their fingers. And here’s a fun tip: do it while humming the “Happy Birthday” song! It’s roughly 20 seconds long – the ideal sudsing time.

The night before school

Prep their first day clothes and supplies: The first morning is always madness, no matter how prepared you think you are. Do yourself a favour and get their outfits laid out – from socks to shirts – as well as lunch bags prepped and backpacks packed. Having everything organized will make things run more smoothly at go-time.

Set your alarm: It’s a good idea to get yourself up extra early to get dressed and ready before you rouse the troops. An extra 15 minutes for a coffee and a few deep breaths before go-time will lower your stress levels – and theirs too. Be sure to allow time for first-day photos, wardrobe malfunctions and inevitable meltdowns. Our kids will be feeling extra vulnerable this time around, so make time for lots of reassuring hugs and first day pep talks, too.


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