Back-to-School Countdown

Getting ready to send your kids back to school? We've got a handy checklist to help you and your little ones prepare for the big day

The return to school, with its early mornings, mountains of homework and jam-packed extracurricular schedule, can be a bit of a nasty shock. And the kids find it hard, too. To ease the pain and get your school groove back, use this week-by-week checklist.

Four Weeks Until School

  • To get the kids back into shape, intellectually speaking, pull out challenging activities like board games and puzzles. And limber up those reading skills, too. They can “read a magazine, cartoons, Archie comics—it really doesn’t even matter what the words are,” says Patience Lutzmann, a Grade 2/3 teacher in 100 Mile House, B.C.
  • Give smaller kids a sense of how much time remains until school starts by placing a wall calendar in their rooms and marking a big red X on each day that passes. You can also try one of these 5 DIY back-to-school countdown ideas.
  • Talk to older kids now about peer influences, and don’t forget to revisit family policies on Internet and instant messaging use.

Three Weeks Until School

  • Head to the mall and get all that back-to-school shopping done. Not only is it necessary, says Penny Welch, mother of Alexandra, 7, and Luke, 4, from Peterborough, Ont., but it helps build excitement as classes approach. “That shopping trip to choose a glue stick and pencil crayons actually brings Alexx a lot of joy,” she says.
  • Hold a family meeting to plan out weekly music lessons or sports practices. Ensure that they fit within the family budget and won’t make life too crazy.

Two Weeks Until School

  • Start to wean the kids off summer treats like ice cream and get back into healthy eating habits.
  • Talk to younger children, especially, about the social and emotional side of school—listening to the teacher, interacting with other students and knowing where to go if they have a problem.
  • Establish a homework plan for the year (like tackling it right after a quick pre-dinner snack), and clear all the summer clutter off the kids’ desks. “Plan now, so it’s not a surprise for the kids,” says Gary Crossdale, a Toronto vice principal.

One Week Until School

  • Take TVs out of older kids’ rooms and get the family back into the school-year routine, complete with earlier bedtimes and the regular morning regimen.
  • Take the kids to the salon for a stylish back-to-school ’do. Faux-hawk, anyone?

The Night Before School

  • Prepare anything that can be done ahead of time (such as lunches), and get the kids to put their school-supply-stuffed backpacks by the front door.
  • Let little ones enjoy the excitement of laying out a new outfit and picking their favourite breakfast for the first day of  school!

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