Summer's ending! 14 things to do with your kids before school starts

How to prepare kids to go back to school: 14 things you can do

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By Sasha Emmons and Josh Harmon

As the summer winds down, it's time to prep your kid to go back to school. With Fall of 2020 set to kick off a different kind of school year, it’s more important than ever to do some preparations to help your child have a meaningful academic experience. Do these things in the last weeks of summer—before school starts—to set your family up for a stress-free first day.

Start adjusting bedtime before school starts

With more hours of daylight, bedtimes slide. Wrestle them back into submission painlessly by starting now and moving lights-out 15 minutes earlier each night, until you're back on your school year schedule.

Set your morning routine

Mornings are always going to be hectic. But the crazy can be controlled if everyone knows the routine and kids are empowered to do their part. Come up with a morning list for each kid before school starts; then print it out, laminate it, and put it where they can see it. Lists are great at motivating kids, and they free you up too, since you won't need to tell anyone to put on their outfits or grab their school supplies.

Get familiar with school

Even online, first days of school can be scary. You can erase a bit of that fear by doing a school dry run, setting up your home for a pretend first day, and maybe even having a video call with the teacher. Email ahead to find a good time.

Tackle the summer reading list

Oops—did you forget about your kid's summer vacation reading? The dog days of summer, when the heat makes an hour of air-conditioned reading sound appealing, are just the time for kids to plow through their list.

Make playdates with classmates

Nothing calms nerves like seeing a familiar face. Ask someone from your child's class, especially a kid he doesn't know well, over for a get-to-know-you, socially distant playdate. That way on the first day of school, you'll know he's among friends.

Add a new responsibility before school starts

A new year is a great excuse to matter-of-factly add a new job to your kid's repertoire (Did you know when you're in second grade, you pick out your own clothes?) After all, they'll be taking on more in school, why not at home?

Make school shopping special

Once school starts, it's hard to find large chunks of time to just hang out. So rather than jamming back-to-school shopping into your regular errands, why not take the day to make it a special bonding time with each kid, complete with a nice lunch where you talk about what the year ahead holds? It might even become a yearly tradition.

Make the check-up appointment with the doctor

This is an early summer to-do: if you didn't do your kid’s annual check-up around his birthday, summer's a good time to catch up. Seeing a doctor is more complicated now, but many practices are still operating via telemedicine. Most non-essential appointments can wait, but if you are taking your child to see a doctor in person, be sure to call ahead to check what COVID precautions the doctor’s office is taking.

Fill out school forms

Don't leave them until the night before, when your time would be better spent savoring one last night of summer with your kids. Save yourself even more hassle by submitting school paperwork early so there's no waiting in line at the office on the first day of school.

Create a homework workspace

One key to homework success is creating a quiet, distraction-free spot for your kid. Look for a quiet spot (away from TV and annoying younger sibs), add good light and make sure your kid has a comfy seat. If schooling is virtual, designate a place in your home just for school-related activities. It will make things feel more official, and will also help your child focus when in that spot.

Organize the closets

We’re not sure why spring cleaning gets all the hype. Fall—when kids are getting a ton of back-to-school clothes—seems like a much more logical time to prune the too-small stuff and neaten up. While you're at it, enable her getting herself dressed in the morning easier by making sure everything's within reach.

Make over school lunch

If you were cheese sandwich-ing it through the last few weeks of school, we feel you. But the new school year's a chance to prep healthier, more inspired lunches for your kids. Also, talk to your kid about what he'd like to have for lunch, and what makes for a balanced meal. Kids are more likely to eat what they feel like they've had a part in deciding.

Get a clock

If your child doesn't have a clock in his room, you're missing out on a powerful tool for helping her get stuff done. One with a timer can also be very effective in helping kids to stay on task in the morning or getting through 30 minutes of piano practice. Here's another nice perk: You can also let the clock be the bad guy—it's not Mommy telling you it's bedtime, it's the clock!

Do something fun

Before summer slips away, take the time to do something special with the kids that really feels like summer. Whether it's blowing off work one day so you can all go for a family beach day or making s'mores, make sure to have a memory that you'll all be able to look back on once you're in the swing of the school year.